Theatre Mirror Reviews - "LITTLE WOMEN"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2017 by Tony Annicone



”LITTLE WOMEN”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Ocean State Theatre Company's latest show is "Little Women, The Musical." The show is based on Louisa May Alcott's beloved 1869 semi-autobiographical novel about the March family of Concord, Massachusetts and is set in 1864. In a time of war and sacrifice the four March sisters, aspiring writer, Jo, romantic Meg, pretentious Amy, and kind-hearted Beth, guided by their mother, Marmee, grow from girls into women, while the family patriarch is away serving as an Army chaplain during the Civil War. They must deal with romance, illness and burgeoning independence. It is a timeless classic and the issues raised in this musical are still relevant today. Director/choreographer Ethan Paulini brings out the best performances in this stellar cast while musical director Esther Zabinski taught the lovely score to them. Their combined expertise wins them a resound standing ovation as the audience is brought to laughter and tears during this heartwarming musical performance.

Ethan blends the comic and poignant moments together splendidly. He has the four sisters enter in contemporary clothes while reading the novel and they transform themselves to their 19th century characters to enter the story. Esther not only conducts a four piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards for the show, too. Tess Jonas as Jo wins over the audience and is dynamic in this role. She runs the gamut of emotions in this show. Tess displays her voice in "Better" when she thinks her writing was better back in Concord than in New York, the show stopping "Astonishing" which closes the first act with power and punch, and "The Fire Within", where after Beth's death, Jo finds courage to write about her beloved family in "Little Women" and she becomes an author at last. This latter number is very poignant with Tess' rendition as is the duet with Beth in Act 2. A fun filled moment occurs in "I'd Be Delighted" which is reminiscent of "Shall We Dance", complete with Marmee, Meg, Beth and Amy doing a dance during it. Alison Novelli plays the oldest sister Meg perfectly. She falls in love with John Brooke who is their neighbor, Laurie's tutor and marries him. Alison has a powerful soprano voice which is heard throughout the show and performs a pretty duet, "More Than I Am" with John Brooke. Another fun number the whole cast is involved in is "The Weekly Volcano Press" when Jo describes her comic tragic operetta that gets her hired at this paper with Alison playing the heroine, Carlotta.

Bryn Martin is fantastic as Beth. She has two numbers including "Off to Massachusetts" where she wins over mean neighbor, Mr. Laurence with her piano playing. Bryn also has a very poignant number with Jo called "Some Things Are Meant to Be" where they vacation together on Cape Cod before Beth's tragic death from Scarlet Fever. There wasn't a dry eye in the house after Tess and Bryn sang it. I last reviewed Bryn in "Seussical" as Gertrude McFuzz at Hendricken in 2015. The youngest sister, Amy is a spoiled brat who burns Jo's manuscript, falls in love with the boy next door and becomes the pride and joy of their Aunt March. Abigail McMahon plays the spoiled brat to the hilt as well as when she returns as a perfect young lady in the second act. Amy and Laurie confess their engagement to Jo in their "The Most Amazing Thing" number. I last reviewed Abigail as Kim in "Bye Bye Birdie" at Hendricken last December. I first reviewed her as Brigitta in "The Sound of Music" at Theatre by the Sea in 2012. Amiee Turner is noble and sympathetic as Marmee. Her first song is "Here Alone" when she sings about missing her husband who is fighting in the Civil War. Her second number occurs as she comforts Jo after Beth's death in "Days of Plenty" which tugs on your heartstrings. She explains they mustn't be defeated by Beth's death and must move on with life. Amiee brings the warmth and maturity needed for this role.

Staci Morin is a hoot as she plays the rich and snooty Aunt March who wants Jo to become a refined lady. Her lovely soprano voice is heard in "Could You?" where she lays down the rules of etiquette for Jo to follow if she wants to accompany her to Europe which Amy eventually does. Staci usually plays nice characters but this is one role she can sink her teeth into by playing a back biting bitch. She is also funny as Jo's Irish landlady in New York. Rounding out this cast are Michael Luongo as Laurie who is smitten with Jo but eventually marries Amy and displays a strong tenor voice in "Five Forever" with a rousing dance and "The Most Amazing Thing", Kevin Patrick Martin as John Brooke who enlists in the Union army after he marries Meg, who displays his strong voice in the duet "More Than I Am", Tommy Labanaris as Professor Bhaer who ends up marrying Jo even though they are opposite in everything they do, who also sings "How I Am" and "Small Umbrella in the Rain" with Tess and Curt Denham as the mean Mr. Laurence who gets won over by the sickly Beth and sings "Off to Massachusetts" with her. So for a trip back to the 19th Century and a return visit to the classic novel of Louisa May Alcott, be sure to catch the heartwarming musical version of "Little Women" at Ocean State Theatre Company. Tell them Tony sent you. The beautiful two story set which looks like it is enclosed with a tent on the camping grounds during the Civil War with the trees on is by Clifton Chadick with lighting by Bert Scott while the gorgeous period costumes are by Emily Taradash especially impressive are Aunt March's hoop skirts.

"LITTLE WOMEN, THE MUSICAL (1 to 19 March)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or www.oceanstatetheatre.org




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