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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 49
Lyrical ladies - Little Women an engaging and heartwarming production
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Lyrical ladies - Little Women an engaging and heartwarming production

by Paul Torres - SGN Contributing Writer

LITTLE WOMEN:
THE BROADWAY
MUSICAL
ARTSWEST PLAYHOUSE
THROUGH
DECEMBER 29


When we first meet Jo March and her sisters in their cozy abode, they are young, pretty, and under the guidance of their Marmee while their father is away at war. Amid the gray haze of the Civil War, Jo and her three other sisters, Amy, Meg, and Beth, live in the gauzy safety net of late adolescence with the additional protection and influence of other adults like boarder Professor Bhaer and their Aunt March.

Little Women - The Broadway Musical, based on Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women, is currently running at ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery in West Seattle. This production sets a perfect tone in telling Jo's struggle to break free from the societal confines and find her own true nature. As she strives to sell her weak swashbuckling-themed stories, she herself is still a bit weak. As she grows stronger her stories grow richer and more defined and finally lead to her success in New York City. Her power is expressed in the song 'Fire Within Me' and we surely feel it.

EmilyRose Frasca is a perfect fit for the boyish and defiant Jo who pines away in the attic with her trunk of memories and dreams. Her vocal talents match the character. 'Astonishing' is a rousing number that lifts the story and gets the audience into the adventurous mood in this version of Little Women. It is a key performance in this production. Jo's favorite exclamation ('Christopher Columbus!') is quite appropriate. Frasca is a virtual dynamo and holds the audience with her powerful performance.

Playing the other sisters are Maddy Kennard as Amy, Marissa Ryder as Meg, and Amanda Louise Carpp as Beth. As in the novel, the three sisters reveal and even irritate the parts of Jo's own personality that she needs to either improve or expel; demureness (Meg), sweetness (Beth), and selfishness (Amy). I was especially touched by Amanda Louise Carpp's dark harbinger tune 'Some Things are Meant to Be.' Carpp is sheer pleasure in this gentle role.

The elder women are portrayed by Patricia Haines-Ainsworth as Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk and Cindy Bradder as Marmee. Both of their performances provide the much-needed gravity to the young girl's youthful levity, while brothers and fathers are off in battle in an era where masculinity is the required foundation. Cindy Bradder's performance, notably in 'Days of Plenty,' brings together some true themes in this story - longing and hope. Bradder's performance is impeccable in a role balances her sternness, love, and loneliness.

The men are played by Danny Kam as Professor Bhaer, Morgan Bader as John Brooke, Jeff Church as Mr. Laurence and Michael Krenning as Laurie Laurence. And, in an era where masculinity is a required foundation, these supporting performances expose the truth. Michael Krenning as Laurie is a special stand out as the young and enamored friend of the March sisters.

The music is directed by Josh Zimmerman and his direction guides the talented musicians in a pleasant manner. The choreography by Taryn Darr adds an appropriate element of graceful properness that fits the period. ArtsWest is a comfortable place to see a production. In the past I have enjoyed 33 Variations and, most recently, a wonderful production of The Taming there. The lighting and sound aspects are always excellent.

With a set designed by Christopher Mumaw, we are instantaneously invited to Civil War era America with its spot-on hints in set and scenery. The wistfulness of the historic times is illustrated with the smooth cream tones, the sheer curtains, and white-frosting colored staircase. In contrast are the brown heavy props of a trunk, a library desk, and a foreboding wheelchair that expose the real harshness of this time period.

Director Mathew Wright's production is never outweighed by its heady and well-beloved source. His aim is to create '& a memory play& with the feel of a dream on stage.' Wright creates a memorable production. Alcott's original story takes an optimistic little woman in an age of obstacles on a bold journey to fulfill her dreams. This production, emboldened by its source, puts these sentimentalities into a poignant musical motion.

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