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LITTLE WOMEN, THE MUSICAL with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, is based on the beloved 1869 classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. Thankfully many of the women likely to be in the audience will have read the classic novel and/or seen one of the beloved movies beforehand. This will come in handy as Knee’s condensed book plays more like a series of vignettes and highlights in the March family. Keeping with the theme of vignettes, Set Designer Dean Johnson uses a minimalist staging plan with the March family attic as the primary backdrop and a handful of household furniture you’d expect to find in an attic that the cast interchanges as needed to create the illusion of other scenes such as the March living room and an ante-room at the Moffatt Ball.
|The cast of Little Women. Photo by Pamela Newman Photography.|
Due to the lack of time and material for the actors to thoroughly develop their characters, director Janelle Phaneuf needs to draw upon her actors’ talents and inspire the audience’s passion and interest. Leading lady Savannah Ludwig, a recent graduate of AMDA, tries to carry the show on her petite shoulders but fumbles (mainly due to the material) to make Jo sympathetic. Yet when she belts out her eleven o’clock numbers her astonishing voice is reminiscent of Sutton Foster and earned high applause from the opening night audience. Marmee (Aileen-Marie Scott) equally finds a sympathetic audience with her rousing Days of Plenty.
Eldest daughter Meg (Genevieve Levin) is a consummate actor as was evident on opening night when she had troubles with both her wig and skirt on two separate occasions but did such a good job of righting the situation that my girlfriend never noticed. Her romance with Andrew Nunez (John Brooke) is an easy audience favorite and believable as they make the most of Allan Knee’s book and here is where Phaneuf really excels in her directional choices.
With both John Brooke (Nunez) and Professor Bhaer (Ezra Eells), Phaneuf capitalizes on the witty script and makes the most of those little moments to demonstrate how both men fall in love with their leading ladies and bring out a passion and set their souls on fire. Both duets, More Than I Am and Small Umbrella in the Rain, were audience favorites. Younger sisters Allison Martinez (the gorgeous Amy) and Hannah Marks (the faithful Beth) probably best demonstrate the most growth as characters. Martinez goes from the ‘pouty’ childlike Amy to a young woman on the cusp of marriage who has learned the importance of sisterhood and family. Marks gets the best known duet from the show, Some Things Are Meant to Be, and does a great job of conveying Beth’s inner strength and her earlier interactions with a once gruffy Mr. Laurence (Dale Alpert) are adorable. Alpert’s Mr. Laurence and Cindy McKay’s Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk are both strong supporting actors and show off their comedic chops in their albeit to short scenes. Unfortunately young Jonathan Markham (Laurie Laurence) seemed to be losing his voice on opening night but his acting did not suffer with an especially poignant moment after his failed proposal to Jo in the first act.
With memorable numbers and a strong cast, this is a great family show to see this summer in Camarillo. Director Janelle Phaneuf says “this show is dedicated to the women who have ever felt merely decorative. The women who were conditioned to believe they weren’t smart enough, strong enough, or capable enough to pursue that which set your soul on fire.” So if you are looking to support local theatre and enjoy a great two and a half hours this might just be the right choice for you.
Unfortunately… I feel the show played itself too safe. On a positive note, Costume Designer Laura Comstock demonstrated the March sisters’ poverty with ill-fitting costumes and torn hems and chose great costumes for the play within a play. However, it seemed the costumes choice for the rest of the cast were equally but unnecessarily ill-fitting and an adjusted hem or two would have made a big difference. Dale Alpert and Cindy McKay portray two of the wealthiest characters and yet Alpert looked as if he was wearing pants belonging to a man a foot taller and McKay’s skirts were too short. Also, it looked as though McKay was wearing a modern peasant skirt you’d find for sale at Target during her turn as boarding house owner Mrs. Kirk. I’m not sure if there were any dressers on site but on opening night there seemed to be several problems with skirt buttons coming undone (!) and wigs (Autumn Ericson) appeared to need a thorough brushing and styling.
The strongest letdown had to be the directional choices during the show’s most beloved number Some Things Are Meant to Be. In other productions the kite flying is extremely symbolic of the loss Jo experiences. Unfortunately in this production it became a source of distraction and pulled away from the emotional impact you’d expect. I wish they’d just left the kite on the floor and ignored it versus what they did do.
June 15 – July 15
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 2 PM
TICKET PRICES (Open Seating)
Students, Seniors, and Military: $15
Group Rates Available.
Please contact the Box Office at 805-388-5716 for more information or to reserve tickets. Tickets can also be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.
Location: Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010
Parking: Free well-lit lot next to the theatre
Seating: General admission. Because of the acoustics I recommend sitting in the front half of the auditorium.
Accessible: The theatre is entirely accessible with ramps in and out of the parking lot.
Disclaimer: My ticket was generously comped by CSP but all opinions are my own.