Little Women Reviewed
By Amy Somensky Jan 22, 2005, 6:15 GMT
Based on the beloved book by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women tells the story of the March sisters during the time of the Civil War in New England. Mr. March is off in the war leaving the four sisters and Marmee to fend for themselves. The March sisters are Jo, the tomboy, who longs to write “blood and gut” stories; the pretty, ladylike Meg; shy and demure Beth, and bratty, selfish Amy. Wise and confident Marmee holds the family together. The girls suffer heartache, love, and loss as they grow and learn together. The protagonist and heart of the story is Jo March. She struggles to find a place for she in a world where women are meant to stand up proper, be ladylike, marry, and have children.
The March women
Here is the bare bones synopsis of the musical. I can image many of you know the basic story, but beware of spoilers anyway. The musical begins in 1865 after Jo March has left her home to study writing. It then flashes back two years to her living with her mother and three sisters. The family is coping with life without their father who has left to fight in the Civil War. Aunt March tells Jo that she can come to Europe with her as long as she acts like a lady, which is the most difficult thing for Jo. Jo befriends her neighbor Laurie and they become best friends. Eventually Laurie falls in love with her and proposes marriage, but she refuses, wanting to focus on her writing instead. Since Jo has not lived up to her promise to Aunt March, she takes Amy to Europe instead. Dejected, Jo leaves home to refine her writing and meets Professor Bhaer. Her trip is short as she is summoned home because her sister Beth is very ill. Beth eventually succumbs to her illness, as Amy returns from Europe engaged to Laurie. At the wedding of Amy and Laurie, Jo and Professor Bhaer realize their affection for each other.
Sutton Foster is superb
Danny Gurwin is charming as Jo’s longtime pal, Laurie, delivering the perfect amount of goofiness. Maureen McGovern seems to be a little cold and distant in her portrayal as Marmee. She never really shows the heart of the character. Amy Alexander’s Amy comes off as downright bratty and annoying all the time. In the book she starts off this way, but changes as she matures. In the musical there is no growth to her character at all. One wonders what Laurie sees in her. When she goes to Europe with Aunt March, I couldn’t help but be thankful that she would be off the stage for a while.
Jo longs to write "blood and gut" stories
The music and lyrics by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickson offer many charming songs including “Could You,” when Aunt March tries to turn Jo into a lady; and “Small Umbrella in the Rain,” when Jo and Professor Bhaer realize their affection for each other. But the best songs come in Jo’s assurance that she will defy what is expected of her, and make something of her life in the show stopper, “Astonishing,” and in Jo and Beth’s farewell in “Some Things Are Meant To Be.” Most of the songs do not advance the plot, and offer little heart tugging moments.
There is really one reason to see Little Women, and that is Sutton Foster. She is a true superstar, and worth the price of admission alone. She has a very long Broadway career in front of her, and should be among the nominees during Tony time. Fans of Alcott’s novel, beware, most of the best and touching moments, with the exception of one or two, are gone or rushed. Not even Sutton Foster can make those glaring ommissions disappear.