Little Women is a story that could have been plucked from the modern era. The narrative of a headstrong female lead who chooses career over love is nothing new. PLNU’s cast breathes new life into a novel that was originally published in 1869 by Louisa May Alcott. This musical adaptation of an American classic gives the audience a glimpse into one woman’s motivation to succeed not only for herself, but to carry her sisters along the way.
Josephine “Jo” March (Kaena Kekoa) begins like many early writers only wanting to write about the extraordinary and sensational—or what she calls “blood and guts stuff.” As a feminist before her time, Jo swears off marrying and settling down, with her core objective to become a published writer. On more than one occasion, Jo grips her big leather bound journal close to her heart showing how dear her stories are.
Though she struggles to find anyone who will give her a chance, she practices on the built-in audience of her sisters—Meg (Madison Fagerlie), Beth (Isabella Dempsey), Amy (Alyx Bogus)—and Marmee (Sarah Mutz). Along the way, these women encounter love and loss, but always find strength leaning on each other. After struggling to sell her stories to publishers, Jo ultimately finds that her story was right in front of her—her sisters.
“This story is timeless. It’s about four young, strong, independent women but specifically one that rises above society,” senior and lead actress Kaena Kekoa said.
In the role of Aunt March, Francesca De Francisco drew the parameters for what high society expected of a young woman such as Jo. While her insistence that a young lady must be married to have a purpose seems laughable in and of itself, De Francisco delivers every wry quip with a straight face. The dry delivery of this no-nonsense woman offers comic relief while also allowing the audience to catch its breath between Jo’s conquest for being published.
The development of characters and their relationships materialize in a variety of symbols, but most notably the kite. The director, Meg DeBoard, and scenic designer, Ron Logan, opted for a clean layout comprised of geometric design and backlit with hues of blue, purple and pink lights. The set reflects a blend of simple, contemporary design with the wooden window in the back being a slanted scalene triangle that resembles a kite.
“A kite is something that flies so freely in the air but it is actually being pulled down,” DeBoard said. “These women are trying to fly freely in the air, but they are being pulled down by what society says their lives should be.”
The play does well to illustrate the struggle of females during this time down to the authentic corsets, layers and hoop skirts that they wear. Jo marches through most scenes in flat, black combat boots while her sisters fashioned lace-up boots with a pointed heel. Although Jo begins the play in a pair of trousers and suspenders, she eventually joins her sisters in wearing corsets and hoop skirts.
The actors stepped in sync to upbeat numbers such as “Five Forever,” in which the March sisters welcome Laurie (Jordan Klein) into their family. Each time a song such as this featured a harmony with the four sisters, you could hear the chemistry in their relationship. The voices of the actresses playing the March sisters meshed together to form a singular voice while maintaining the unique personality of each character.
In contrast, solo ballads opened the door for vulnerability and reflection for many characters, including the male leads. In a story about strong women leads, it would be easy to overlook their male counterparts had they not experienced a degree of transformation themselves. In “How I Am” Professor Bhaer (Joseph Stoltzfus) considers his life up to this point and how he has been influenced by Jo’s ambitious personality.
Though there are many things to be learned from Little Women, Jo March stands as a prime example of someone who will follow their passion at all costs. Not only does Jo have to hurdle society’s expectations while entering in a career of writing, but the creative field is not an easy path.
Jo’s passion for telling stories really boils down to a desire for human connection. This musical is a reminder of the timeless tale of wanting to be heard and speaks to the creative spirit in men and women alike.
Little Women is presenting shows in Salomon Theatre Thursday, Nov. 16 and Friday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. The final performance will be a matinee on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $12 and available for purchase online or at the box office.