Review by Danny Gaisin
Yippee,- a play about young females of small stature. Being vertically challenged, this was the sole category of dates I sought out B.T. (Before Terry).
Nope, seems that someone named L. M. Alcott wrote a novel back in 1868 about four sisters during the Civil War that became a must-read for girlish teens. The heroine is Jo and she’s all spunk. I kept thinking of the famous Mary Tyler Moore show episode where Editor Lou Grant states “You’ve got spunk – I HATE spunk”!
HAMMER ENTERTAINMENT selected Krystal Konior to direct the musical version of the book and her efforts are a ‘good news/bad news’ variant. For the former, her selection of cast members; both lead and supporting, is faultless. The five Marches, sibs and mommy; are all more than adequate thespians and also possess voices pleasant enough to overcompensate for the less-than-memorable score by Jason Howland. Jo, sung & acted by Jill Kooymans, is stage-front in almost every scene and Kooymans is up to the challenge. Her voice, enunciation and phrasing enable the audience to follow not only her life but the subplots that involve her sorority.
Sister no. 2 – Meg; is Sarah Bayzat and she gives a dynamic interpretation to what is basically a support role. Her follower in the pecking order is Kristi Boulton whose ‘Beth’ is the most sympathetic character and the one who evokes pathos and empathy from her audience. The runt of the litter is Amy and wifey tells me she became the stereotype for everyone’s annoying kid sister. Olivia Tharme milks the role for all its worth and while her vocal demands are sporadic, the thespian requirements are Herculean. I liked her. However, a bit of personal bias, she bears resemblance to a certain contemporary writer named Atwood, who reminds me of Trudeau-the elder…who I hated!
The three males in the storyline are the wealthy uncle/nephew Laurence’s; Sean Emberley & Daniel Grant. Both become emotionally involved with the sisters and their individual psyches and attitudes are major contributors to the plot developments. One will identify with both portrayals. Then, there’s Jo’s professor…Brian Munro. He keeps on evoking the pathetic Jewish grocer SCHULTZ in ‘Cabaret’, with understated humility and self-effacement. Munro owns most of the scenes where he’s stage-front.
Now the bad news; there’s too many occasions where dialogue is unnecessarily rushed. Better for Konior to have cut or abbreviated some of the songs; if total temporal duration is a factor. Spotlight blocking needs tweaking…always make sure the face is lit – body is secondary. As for the scene-changes, a couple of instances became onerous, even with the musical interludes. Finally, the philosophical soliloquies in Act II (where all the sub-plots gestate to fruition) surprisingly drag. We noticed more than a few surreptitious yawns from neighboring seats.
Costumes are interesting and detailed. They are also perfectly suited (pun intended) to the era. Two duets are standouts; both utilizing Jo. The ‘I could learn’ number, and ‘Astonishing’ have an impact and both are significant to the plot’s progress. I never read the original, and probably never will, but overall, this chauvinist enjoyed the story; the musical narrative, and especially the obvious vigour and interest the entire cast contributes. LITTLE WOMEN, The Musical will be at the Citadel until Dec. 14th.
***Watch out for the paid parking across the street. The pre-pay machine won’t accept your toonies, and then the car gets ticketed!