Encore Michigan

Little Women: The Musical at The Snug charms and delights

Review May 13, 2017 Paula Bradley

MARINE CITY—No matter how often it happens, it is always satisfying to see classic literature being enjoyed in modern society. When a classic novel is brought to the stage, especially when re-imagined as a musical, fans of the classic work are sometimes, rightly, apprehensive. But Little Women, the Musical, based on the beloved novel by Louisa May Alcott and playing at The Snug Theatre in Marine City, should assuage any apprehension that fans of the novel may have.

The musical, with book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, is set in the 1860s and closely follows the events of the novel. The story highlights the distinct and entertaining personalities of the March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, their mother Marmee and various relatives and acquaintances.

The Snug’s production, directed by Edmond Reynolds, features a talented cast, some of whom have graced this stage in previous shows. Main character Jo is played by Amanda Rae Evans with vigor and energy. Jo’s willful personality seems to be no challenge for Evans, and she is the lifeblood of the story. Older sister Meg, played by Danii Diehl, is aptly portrayed as sensible beauty, fitting the proper feminine standards of the time. Third sister Beth, played by Hilary Dutourgeerling, is shy and quiet, but perhaps the most loving and caring of the sisters. And the young Amy, played by Mallorie Green, is slightly impetuous, always wishing she could be like her older sisters, yet in reality almost nothing like them. Marmee, played with warmth and gentle strength by Katherine Guc, is the gentle heart of the family, managing the household on a shoestring without Mr. March, who is serving in the war.

The teenaged sisters, who are very loving and affectionate with each other, often act out make-believe, romantic and adventure stories made up by Jo, definitely the creative force of the quartet. Their joie de vivre is so contagious, in fact, that they win over the affections of their stern neighbor Mr. Laurence (Randolph Skotarczyk), and his grandson Laurie (Drew Dyer), even “adopting” Laurie as an unofficial sibling.

The sisters are on the verge of womanhood, and Meg, Beth and Amy gradually begin to envision themselves as potential wives and mothers, but Jo clings to the childhood fantasies, rejecting the idea of marriage and instead striving to be an author of popular (and provocative) periodical fiction. Even when Meg marries John Brooke (Samuel Alan Wright), and Aunt March (Audrey Brown) offers to take Jo to Europe if she can act like a proper lady, Jo is steadfast in her non-traditional goals. She is even oblivious to the otherwise obvious affections of Laurie, and unintentionally crushes him in rejection.

When Jo moves to New York to pursue a writing career, she is just as oblivious to the attentions Professor Bhaer (Jason Oyler), whose opinions she respects and company she enjoys. But when tragedy strikes the March family, grief causes Jo to re-examine her priorities. She follows the professor’s advice and begins to write from her heart, and in the process actually listens to her heart for the first time, realizing that her path in life does include love and marriage.

This production has strengths in just about every area. The dramatic and vocal performances are good from the whole cast, especially Evans as Jo and Green as Amy. Though Jo is exuberant and playful throughout, her strongest performance may be when the grief-stricken Jo makes a turning point. Vocal highlights include the duets between Meg and John (“More Than I Am”), and between Jo and Prof. Bhaer (“Small Umbrella in the Rain”). Guc delivers rich and emotional vocal performances as Marmee in “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty.” Audiences will also enjoy the energy and fun of “The Weekly Volcano Press” which opens Act II.

The music, while not composed of the catchiest tunes and motifs, is filled with meaningful and pleasantly clever lyrics. The biggest impact of the music is as sort of a map of each character’s emotional journey, from energetic to romantic to wistful to grieving to hopeful. Each song acts as an emotional window into a particular moment of the story. The live in-house music adds a wonderful feel to the show.

The set is wonderfully constructed and decorated with charming and realistic items that never feel cluttered. Even the floor is painted like worn wood planks. The costumes are outstanding, looking more like authentic 1860s garments than “costumes,” complete with period appropriate fabrics, accessories and underpinnings. The lighting and sound effects are understated and suitable. The overall effect is that of a highly professional production.

This classic story can be enjoyed by all ages, whether experienced for the first time or by a long-time admirer of the novel or films.

Little Women the Musical is playing at The Snug Theatre through May 21, 2017.

Click here for show days, times and ticket details.

Week of 12/10/2018

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