Theater & Movies
Little Women on Broadway
Louisa May Alcott’s novel is easy to love from generation
to generation, even if the new Broadway show meanders a bit
in places. Sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy offer plenty to sing
and dance about as they come of age in an all women household
in Alcott’s autobiographical story of growing up before,
during and after the Civil War. Also resonating across generations
are the strong family ties and feminist themes, topics for
classroom discussion. Appropriately, teacher study guides (http://www.littlewomenonbroadway.com/guide/index.html)
and teacher tickets (www.schooltix.com) offer ways to make
this show an exciting a classroom project.
The spunky aspiring writer Jo March—who remains closely
tied to her family while also refusing the restraints placed
on women of her day—seems hand-tailored to headline a
musical. Here, Sutton Foster belts out her songs effectively.
In the first act, her closing song “Astonishing” is
especially rousing and memorable.
Allan Knees’ book starts when Jo has left home and is
living in New York, where she is trying to sell swashbuckling
stories. Choreography by Michael Lichtefeld enacts her imaginary
scenarios. Jo’s daydream about home and Christmas brings
the family together and thereafter
the musical stays on track.
Director Susan H. Schulman establishes
each character. Jo is the tomboy with the creative urge.
Meg (Jenny Powers) is the proper romantic. Beth (Megan McGinnis),
is the sweet and fragile child who, even before her illness,
dotes on Jo’s
adventures, and Amy (Amy McAlexander) is a spoiled brat, who
goes off to Europe with Aunt March (Janet Carroll), and ends
of up with Jo’s cast off beau, Laurie (Danny Gurwin). Marmee
(pop star Maureen McGovern) is effective as the girls’ beloved
mother. Composer Jason Howland and lyricist Mindi Dickstein
give her one of the best songs, “Here Alone,” a
ballad to her husband at war.
Packed with emotion, the second
act’s sad, introspective
duet between the Jo and the ailing Beth tugs at the heartstrings.
After Beth’s death, Marmee’s “Days of Plenty” is
a strong song of grief and resilience.
The production design by Derek McLane
is fine and the costumes by Catherine Zuber enhance both
Jo’s elaborate fantasies
and the family’s modest circumstances. #
(Little Women is currently at the Virginia Theater, 245 W.
52nd St. 2 hours,40 mins.; $60-$100).