Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Little Women  Photo Ali Nicole

Book by Allan Knee, Music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott.  ASNY Productions. Directed b Jennifer Fontaine and Jacqueline Armstrongy

Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel, Little Women, tells the story of Jo March (Alcott’s alter ego) and her three sisters Meg, Beth and Amy. Originally published in 1868, the tale has been retold in numerous formats — as a silent film, more recent movie versions, a television series, a stage play and a musical.

The musical, which had a four-month run on Broadway in 2005, closing after 237 performances, intersperses the domestic lives of the March family with dramatizations of aspiring writer Jo’s  melodramatic “blood and guts” stories.

While the musical, with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, touches on the main events and relationships of the novel, it can do little more than glide over the surface, given that it has to leave space for musical numbers and melodramatic moments. Of the 18 songs presented, only Off to Massachusetts is hummable enough to be remembered after the curtain closes. As for the melodramatic inserts, they are best forgotten.

The Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet production makes a staunch effort to expand the view of the family by delivering projections of the sisters growing up and to give impressions of extra scenic backgrounds.

 

As directed by Jennifer Fontaine and Jacqueline Armstrong, the four sisters are well defined: Jo (Alison Boudreau) is determined and anxious to make her mark as a writer; Meg (a particularly pleasant performance from Jennifer Venning) is warm and ready for the expected path of love, marriage and building her own family; Beth (Sydney Maloney) is sweet and delicate; and Amy (Madeline Hunter) is suitably pouty and jealous of Jo.

 

At least three of the four are older than the sisters of Alcott’s novel, who were 12, 13, 15 and 16 at its beginning. (Neither is the youngest of the novel, the youngest on stage, which adds a layer of confusion, not to mention the physical condition of another.) The ages designated by Alcott make the reasons for some events more understandable. For instance, the older two (Meg and Jo) are of an age to attend a ball and the youngest (Amy) must be cared for by her aunt, when their mother leaves to nurse their father, a chaplain in the Civil War.

 

The strongest performance in the show comes from Nicole Milne as the girls’ mother, Marmee, who remains totally believable, loving and in character at all times, whether or not she is in the spotlight. The musical quality of her two solos, Here Alone and Days of Plenty is also outstanding.

As Jo’s two beaus, Andrew Galligan as Laurie and Scott Shepherd as Professor Bhaer, are well contrasted and most of the other cast members deliver the required one-note cameos with clarity.

However, the directors seem less sure about 19th-century etiquette. For example, in this period, it is highly unlikely that a young man would pick up his girlfriend and haul her on to his lap, even if she had just agreed to marry him. Similarly, although Jo just might hug her fiancé impetuously after learning that her novel is to be published, it is very unlikely that she would kiss him on the mouth or that they would walk off with their arms around each other. Public displays of affection would have been considered improper at the time. (Just ask Aunt March (Mary Ellen Vice) as she attempts to make first Jo, then Amy, fit for polite society.)

 

In general, while the ASNY production of Little Women offers some good performances, musical highlights and interesting effects, the strongest sense is that this long show goes on too long.

 

Little Women continues at the Centrepointe Studio to February 11.

 

 

Directors…………………………………….Jennifer Fontaine and Jacqueline Armstrong

Musical director…………………………….Jennifer Fontaine

Choreographer………………………………Jacqueline Armstrong

Set……………………………….Jennifer Fontaine, Jacqueline Armstrong, Jean Fontaine

Sound…………………………………………Marc Seguin

Lighting……………………………………… Don Douglas

Projections…………………………………….Hannah Grosskleg

Costumes………………………………………Ingrid Hunt

Pianist……………………….. ………………..Kellina Gehrels

Violinist………………………………………..Sophia Pan

 

Cast:

Marmee                                                                                             Nicole Milne

Jo March                                                                                           Abbey Flockton

Jo March                                                                                           Alison Boudreau

Meg March                                                                                       Jennifer Venning

Beth March                                                                                                   Sydney Maloney

Amy March                                                                                       Madeline Hunter

Amy March alternate/ Ensemble                                                      Katherine Harb

Aunt March                                                                                      Mary Ellen Vice

Laurie/ Braxton                                                                                 Andrew Galligan

Professor Bhaer                                                                                Scott Shepherd

John Brooke/ Rodrigo                                                                                  Andrew McDouggall

Mr. Laurence/ Monk                                                                         Christopher Natuik

Mrs. Kirk/ Ensemble                                                                         Alison Manning

Clarissa/ Ensemble                                                                            Kathryn McLaren

Knight/ Ensemble/ Mr. Laurence Understudy                                 Marc Lessard

Hag/ Ensemble/ Meg Understudy                                                    Sarah Algozino

Troll/ Ensemble                                                                                 Heather Watt

Hannah/ Ensemble/ Mrs. Kirk Understudy                                      Carole Chow

Rodrigo 2/ Ensemble/ Troll Understudy                                          Katie Shepherd

Ensemble/ Marmee Understudy                                                       Rachel Duchesneau

Ensemble/ Beth Understudy                                                            Maya Chow

Ensemble/ Aunt March Understudy                                                 Lili Roussakis

Ensemble/ Swing Clarissa and Hag                                                  Kaylee Ross

Ensemble/ Swing Rodrigo, Braxton and Knight                              Emmett Workman

 

Projections cast:

Mr March                                                                                          Chris Ralph

Young Meg                                                                                       Morgan Hunt

Young Jo                                                                                          Maya Merrick

Young Beth                                                                                      Emmelyn Merrick

Young Amy                                                                                     Macie Merrick