Review of Little Women at Stage North in Brainerd, MN
Quote of the Day: I like to help women help themselves, as that is, in my opinion, the best way to settle the woman question. Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think any one will deny us. Louisa May Alcott, American Author, poet, novelist, feminist, abolitionist, and one of my favorite authors. I read Little Women several times as I was growing up. I identified with Jo March (who was in some ways Louisa May Alcott herself), her love of writing and storytelling, writing plays for her sisters to perform, her relationship with her sisters, her social awkwardness, and her need to pursue her own passions.
Our local theater director, Gary Hirsch, has written a stage adaptation of the beloved classic novel Little Women. The first act opens with the young March sisters worrying about Christmas, the lack of gifts due to their poverty, but worse, the absence of their father who is away in the Civil War. Their mother, Marmee, is preoccupied with worry over him and helping out at the Hummel house, where they are even more impoverished and ill. An adult Jo March reads from her book as narrator of this play as the actors play out scenes. The March sisters are typical siblings with squabbles and scrapes. Meg is the oldest and most responsible. She’s already hiring out as a tutor and experiencing her first romance. Jo is the rebel, unhappy in fluffy skirts and “ladylike” expectations. Beth is sweet and demure, wishing to spend her days at needle work, playing the piano, and helping her mother. Amy is a little bratty, but trying to make her voice heard, not always easy when you’re the baby of the family.
In the second act, the story plays out as the March sisters come of age. Meg marries. Jo experiences success as a writer by getting stories published in magazines and newspapers and also goes to work as a nanny. Beth, who contracted scarlet fever from the Hummel family, remains frail. Amy is able to pursue her talents as an artist and travels abroad. Aunt March, who can be a judgmental tyrant, also finds ways to financially help the family. And, of course, there’s Laurie (short for Laurence) the lonely boy next door who becomes fast friends with the March sisters.
I was very pleased to see Stage North doing Little Women for their 2016 holiday show. So many girls audition for very few roles on stage in community theater, and Stage North gave them opportunities to get experience performing. They cast the March sisters in their younger years, and another set of actors for when they are older. The story is about women, their relationships, who they are, their hopes and dreams, trials and tribulations. I knew many of the younger actors from piano lessons, theatre classes, directing the children’s choir the past two years for Stage North, and through community involvement. Jocelyn Tanner and Laura Oldham directed the choir this year and did a great job. The young singers were lovely, singing some classic songs, and a few that were new to me. They set the mood nicely for the play as pre-show music, and during intermission. Arrive early to hear them! You can hear a little preview on my Facebook page for Play off the Page.
All the young ladies do a great job in their roles. They give us the feeling of sisters who both love and irritate each other. Jenn Abramson is a lovely Marmee, one of my favorite characters. She envelopes her daughters in love and lessons. The older cast members carry the story to the end, although it starts to feel a little long, and I feel there is an overuse of the narrator. Still, this stage play stays true to the book and the characters created by Louisa May Alcott. Mike Anderson did an outstanding job of designing the set. Sarah Gorham provides the mood music throughout the performance, which is exquisite.
Well done, cast and crew of Stage North. You have another fine production. Thank you for inviting me to media night for a sneak peek at this darling show. You can see more photos on the Facebook page for Stage North, most of them by local photographer John Erickson. Also, check out the Stage North website. Below is an excerpt from the article in the Brainerd Dispatch about this production of Little Women.
This original production is based on the classic novel. This original adaptation was written by Stage North’s Artistic Director Gary Hirsch. The structure of the play faithfully covers the story, interweaving the lives of the March girls: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and Laurie, the boy next door, as they grow up happily together.
The cast of 40 actors is made up of many local residents including Kevin Yeager as Father March, Sadie Wunder as Older Meg, Sharon Hartley as Aunt March, Mark Liedl as Mr. Lawrence, Sheridan Wilson as Older Beth, Nolan Reynolds as Laurie, Elaina Tanner as Older Amy and Jenn Abramson as Marmee. There are a number of newcomers including Stacy Nagel as Adult Jo, Taisha Linder as Younger Jo, Katie Hilton as Older Jo, Abigail Oldham as Younger Meg, Bianca Purdy as Younger Amy, Jaden Wendt as Younger Beth and Nick Norgaard as Older Laurie.
The cast also includes a 15 member children’s choir who will entertain audiences before the show and at intermission.
For tickets, go to the Stage North website at www.stagenorththeater.com or call the ticket line at 218-232-6810. Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for children under 12.
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Journaling Prompt: What are your favorite holiday, or classic, stories?