Little Women: The Broadway Musical
Breakthrough Theater • Winter Park, Florida
Based on the book by Louisa May Alcott
Starring Marlo Coffin, Ashley Van Kirk, Marasha Johnson, and Alyssa Clausen
Directed by Carla Hanson
Musical Direction by Angela Cotto
Choreography by Madison Smith
Reviewed by Carl F. Gauze
Let’s flash back to the 1860s, when America was mostly rural, a major war raged, and girls were limited to cooking, cleaning, and birthing babies.
Little Women: The Broadway Musical gives us the March household, where Mother “Marmee” (Elle Grant) attempts to control her four young daughters while cooking, cleaning, and sewing. Dad is off fighting the Civil War and contracting one of those infectious diseases that have no cure. Disease is as likely as a bullet to take you out, and even though Dad’s off stage, we worry if he’ll ever come home, much less in one piece.
The daughters remain busy, and each has her own plan. Oldest daughter Jo (Coffin) wants to write a book and publish it. This sort of thing is not allowed for girls, much less encouraged, but she presses on. Her sister Beth (Ashley Vankirk) contracts scarlet fever and lives in a wheelchair and hopes for an end to the pain. Lucky Amy (Marasha Johnson) catches the eye of a handsome and non-draftable man, so she’s set. There are a ton of plot threads along with plenty of action and intrigue. I’m sure you’ll identify with at least one of the players on some level.
The stage is packed with action and we spend two hours watching the drama unfold. Everyone’s favorite is Jo, she aims the highest and even though she’s not conventionally beautiful, she connects with a publisher who helps her with editing. She’s unusually outspoken for a mid-19th-century lady, but that’s the beauty of America: it’s big enough to absorb all sorts of characters eventually. Technically this a musical, and a number of tunes work to push the story down the tracks. They are mostly sweet and sentimental, as was the fashion of the day. At some point a piano appears, it’s owned by cranky and wealthy Mr. Laurence (Larry Stallings) who miraculously becomes nice around the girls. The story is peppered with small jealousies, yearnings for small graces, and small desires all of us have had at one time or another. It’s an excellent show for Breakthrough: it’s filled with roles for young people, hosts a large cast that minimizes the amount of lines any one actor need master, and requires only a minimal set. This is a great show to share with young people in your life.