With numerous adaptations to choose from (films, musicals, television serials, radio dramas, and even anime), you can never quite be sure what you are going to get when someone says they will be presenting Little Women for your viewing pleasure. Not saying that we approached this production with any skepticism, but we were greeted with a version of the script that we were not readily familiar with. In my personal experience, most theatre groups choose the script with the ever-recognizable opening scene depicting Jo March in her ‘writing hat’ and teaching demure Amy how to faint properly. But KTG threw us a curve ball and selected a script that was adapted by Roger Wheeler and stayed very true to the novel in content and structure. It was quite a refreshing change and very enjoyable. While the added dialogue did increase the total run time of the production, the performers gave such life to the whole affair it really did not seem as though we had been with them for 3 hours.
From the moment we entered the space, it was very obvious that this show was going to be different than others that we had seen previously here. The ambiance of the theatre was quite changed from times past when we have attended. The setting of the March family home was rather inviting. There was a warmth radiating from the stage that felt so welcoming, it gave a feeling that you could have easily been sitting in someone’s living room. There were numerous details beyond just furniture that worked to add personality and a real sense of home to the set. Fashioned in to one wall was a ‘working’ fireplace and a second wall swung open to reveal a library setting in the home of neighbor boy, Theodore “Laurie” Lawrence. Faux candles were placed throughout the set and when coupled with muted lighting plus the fireplace, it gave the entire set a glow that transported us right to the 1800s.
When looking at the cast list, we were very excited to see a nice mix of familiar names and newcomers and we are very pleased to say that there were absolutely no disappointments of any kind from this cast. Director Melissa Malcolm struck theatre gold when assembling this troupe. Portraying the March family was a cast of lovely and talented ladies which consisted of Kendall Hubbard as Meg March, Lindsey Jones as Jo March, Madelynn Wedding as Amy March, Amanda Maine as Beth March, and Jessica LaFollette as Mrs. March (Marmee). Each of these ladies brought such unique personalities to the characters while still reminding us that they were part of the same family. The chemistry of the five March women was genuine and could be felt as well as seen. I truly believe that these young ladies may have looked to Ms. LaFollette as a mother figure when not onstage and there was a look in her eyes that made me feel as though she saw them as her girls, if only for a little while. There were so many moments in which these women seemed to have grown together far past being a ‘stage family’. The girls’ delight at the prospect of Marmee’s return home and seeing her Christmas presents, Amy’s anger at being left behind when the older girls visit the theatre with Laurie, the deep concern in Marmees’s eyes as she assessed the potential damage after Amy’s fall through the ice, Jo’s panic at the prospect of Beth’s possible death…none of these moments felt contrived. These women made me believe that they were truly in the moments and living the ups as well as the downs of the March family.
The ‘second family’ of Little Women consists of the March family’s neighbors, James and Theodore “Laurie” Lawrence played by Steve Humphrey and James Altman respectively. Both men brought with them an air of distinction and class that was suited perfectly to the status assigned to the Lawrence name by the author. The similarities in their carriage and demeanor would lead one to believe that Altman may have studied under Humphrey at one time or another and made it easy to buy in to the idea that they were grandfather and grandson. Adding some additional flavor to the cast were Matthew Anderson and John Kaywood portraying John Brook (the two actors alternated weekends), Clarissa Gray as ornery Aunt March, and Debbie Stover as the March family’s devoted maid, Hannah. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Kaywood each took differing approaches to the character of Laurie’s tutor, John Brook, and they were both quite successful in presenting the character as a shy, and very lovable young man with the best of intentions to be entirely devoted to the woman who he wished to spend his life with. Clarissa Gray really brought the spice with her saucy portrayal of Aunt March who, even though she has only the best interest of her great nieces at heart, just doesn’t seem to know how to deliver advice without a pinch of salt. Always genuine in her love for all members of the March family, and the adopted Lawrence’s, Ms. Stover brings the perfect amount of sweetness as Hannah to counteract all the salt from Aunt March. Rounding out the list of performers was Christian Bell as Professor Friedrich Bhaer. Mr. Bell is an accomplished actor from the area who appeared more than comfortable with the period dialogue and unique characterization of the German expatriate. The entire cast meshed so well together, it is almost hard to believe that they had only been together for a little over a month at the time of the performances.
While it goes without saying that each member of the cast gave outstanding performances, I must say that I would like to give Ms. Jones and Mr. Altman a little extra praise for their outstanding portrayals of Jo and Laurie. For Ms. Jones in particular I feel like this production was a little more demanding than most. She was on stage for nearly the entirety of the production, excluding intermissions. That alone is exhausting, but when you add to that the amount of dialogue she had to memorize as well as the emotional roller coaster she had to ride as Jo March, there is nothing simple about what she was doing. But, she made it look like an absolute walk in the park. Similarly, Mr. Altman was tasked with ‘aging’ himself throughout the production. Not physically, that is easy to do. Makeup, wigs, and costumes can take care of that with little to no effort on the part of an actor. Mr. Altman began the story as a teenage boy, filled with mischief and playfulness fed by his new-found friends in the March girls. As the story progressed, he transformed Laurie to a tormented young man plagued by unrequited love, and eventually blossomed in to a well-adjusted gentleman who is perfectly suited for all that life has to throw at him.
If I was given the opportunity to see this production again, in this venue, with this cast, I would be there in a moment. I say thank you to each member of the cast and the production team for bringing this show to life. Your time and work were well worth it and I do hope you all enjoyed the fruits of your labor. Please keep on doing what you are doing and I hope that we will see each of you on stage again soon.