A Feel-Good LITTLE WOMEN: THE MUSICAL by the Dramateurs

by Kelly Thunstrom

(l-r) Alexandra Rush, Amanda Frangoulis, Kim Albright, Kit Niesen, and Erin Kishpaugh portray the March women in the Dramateurs production of LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL.

Broadway these days seems to be turning everything into musicals. If you head to The Great White Way now, you’ll see billboards advertising renditions of SPIDERMAN, SISTER ACT, and the tearjerker, GHOST. LITTLE WOMEN and Broadway musical don’t sound like they should even remotely go together. But Allan Knee, Jason Howland, and Mindi Dickstein worked to create something that, for the most part, works well (except for the ending which is peculiarly abrupt and filled with duets and solos that sound the same). It can be ridiculously schmaltzy at times, with song lines like “Our love is like a small umbrella in the rain”, but in the Dramateurs’ and director Eileen Ciccarone’s capable hands, the schmaltz becomes mostly believable.

For LITTLE WOMEN and Alcott fans, you know the familiar story. Mr. March is fighting in the Civil War, leaving behind his wife, Marmie (Erin Kishpaugh), and four daughters, Jo (Alexandra Rush), Amy (Kit Niesen), Meg (Amanda Miller Frangoulis), and Beth (Kim Albright). Marmie has a quiet dignity as she tries to raise her four little women by herself. Jo wants to be a writer, going so far as to leave her home for New York and the guiding hands of Professor Bhaer (Thomas Lamphere). Along the home front, the March family is looked after by Mr. Laurence (Doug Smith) and Aunt March (Rosemary Gehrlein). Mr. Laurence’s grandson, Laurie (Jason Kramer), and John Brooke (Thom Sirkot) are interested in the eldest March daughters.

(l-r) Kim Albright and Alexandra Rush as Beth and Jo March in the Dramateurs production of LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL.

LITTLE WOMEN really grew on me as the night progressed.  The talents of the cast shine when Jo is describing her book to Professor Bhaer, and they must play dual roles.  The best scenes however, are when the four sisters interact, particularly in the fun “Five Forever”. Rush definitely came into her own as the production went on, becoming much more natural and confident, particularly with the end of the first act’s astonishing “Astonishing”. Niesen has a beautiful high soprano voice that always shines through, especially in her dual role of Clarissa. Albright has just the right sweet voice for sweet Beth, especially in the number that didn’t really have anything to do with the plot, “Off to Massachusetts”. Except for some overacting and overyelling in the first act, I enjoyed watching Rush, Niesen, Albright, and Frangoulis as the four title characters.

The set, by Rusty Muglia, and costumes, by Eileen Ciccarone, are beautifully done.  Everything from the rag doll in the attic to Beth’s wheelchair to the flouncy dresses could have stepped straight out of the 1860s. Amy’s wig however, illustrating that she was the youngest sister, was definitely a little too “Cindy Brady” for my taste.

If your favorite musicals are RENT, CABARET, and CHICAGO, then LITTLE WOMEN might not be for you. But it’s a feel-good musical that makes you believe that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I still have “Off to Massachusetts” in my head!

Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Book by Allan Knee
Music by Jason Howland
Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein
Directed by Eileen Ciccarone
May 4-19, 2012
The Dramateurs, Inc.
at The Barn Playhouse
1600 Christopher St
Jeffersonville, PA 19403

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