Little Women
by San Diego Junior Theatre

Madeleine BarkerLouisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical work Little Women has been a sensation since it was first published in 1868 and 1869 in two parts. When Alcott's publisher requested that she write "a girls story", Alcott wrote for two and a half months straight and produced the first installment of the book. The success led to two sequels as well as various adaptations of the books into a musical, opera, animated feature, numerous film adaptations (including a 1978 version with William Shatner as Professor Bhaer), and numerous adaptations of a play. Throughout this story we become emotionally involved with a family that experience's great triumphs and hardships. Whether you are a Beth, Amy, Meg, or Jo, everyone can relate to this story in their own way, and this production reminds us of just that. 

Desha Crownover has brought together an extraordinary cast that exudes the definition of an ensemble. The cast is led by Madeleine Barker as Jo, who brings Jo's independence and goal-driven self out for everyone to see. Madeleine's passion only adds to the quality of her performance as she leads the entire ensemble throughout the action of the play. She is joined by Jenna Selby who gives an honest and heartbreaking performance as Beth who wants nothing more than to live her life and for once go ahead of her sisters. Their scene together as Beth says her final words before her death is the most pivotal point of the show, a driving force for the rest of the play, and it is beautifully done by these actors. There was not one dry eye in the house. Meg, “the beautiful one” as Laurie describes her, is wonderfully played by Jaime Myers, who takes the role of the responsible sister and resident worrywart. Jaime plays the role with such charm, tenacity and fervor, you can't help but hope for a sister like Meg, even if she does overreact constantly. Playing the brattiest and certainly the most in need of attention, Nicki Elledge gives a fine performance as the youngest of the March sister's. Her development from an immature twelve year-old to young woman of the world is done with grace and ease. These four little women have such a bond with each other, the minute the show starts you can see the unwritten past between each and everyone of them. 

Everyone's favorite mother, Mrs. March (or Marmee, as her daughter's call her), is played with delicacy by Devon Hollingsworth. Her compassion for her daughters and everyone around her is contagious. Although for the most part we see the serious side of Marmee, when she tells Jo she has a temper as bad as hers, we can't help but laugh. Aunt March, played by Francesca Fromang, exudes the stereotype of a stuck-up rich woman, and Francesca is right on the money with her portrayal. Specifically with Francesca's characterization of Aunt March, we can see that she only wants what is best for the girls. The last of the women, Hannah, portrayed by Kristen Green, adds some comedic relief to the show and helps to hold the family together in times of need. 

And now to the men of this production. As always, David Siciliano gives an amazing performance as Theodore Lawrence. You can't help but fall in love with him and feel for him when Jo rejects his proposal of marriage. Jordan Bunshaft plays both Mr. March and Professor Bhaer with such heart. In particular, his portrayal of Bhaer is meek, shy, and yet hopeful that Jo will Jenna Selby, Devon Hollingsworth, Nicki Elledge, Jamie Myers, David Siciliano return his feelings of love. Robert Vander Turner plays John Brooke with such love for Meg, he will do anything to have her hand in marriage, and the entire audience is rooting for him from the very beginning. Finally, Mr. Lawrence, as played by Alex Dunbar, is at first glance a very gruff man, but throughout the show, particularly during scene changes, we see him develop a mentor-like relationship with Beth which helps build up to the scene when he gives her a piano. 

This ensemble has an unspoken chemistry that is seen in every scene. With only four weeks of rehearsal, you can tell a lot of hard work and passion was put into this show by the cast and the director. The set, designed by Morgan Hollingsworth, was simple yet allowed for the actors to play everywhere on the stage. The costumes, beautifully designed by Lisa Forrest, is simple yet elegant from Aunt March's gorgeous dress to Laurie's suits. The light design, by Cynthia Bloodgood, is simple yet pivotal. In addition, you can't help but mention the hair and makeup design by Richard May, which helps with the transitions of the characters from long locks, to a boy haircut as well as aging and illness. All the elements come together for an incredible experience in the end. I urge you to bring lots of Kleenex and an open heart to fully appreciate the story in its full glory.

Performs February 6-15, 2009

Catherine Miller
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Amy: Nicki Elledge
Beth: Jenna Selby
Meg: Jaime Myers
Jo: Madeleine Barker
Aunt March: Francesca Fromang
Mrs. March: Devon Hollingsworth
Theodore Lawrence: David Siciliano
Mr. Lawrence: Alex Dunbar
John Brooke: Robert Vander Turner
Hannah: Kristen Green
Fredrick Bhaer: Jordan Bunshaft

Director: Desha Crownover
Assistant Director: Erin Petersen
Set Design: Morgan Hollingsworth
Costume Design: Lisa Forrest
Hair/Make-up Design: Richard May
Light Design: Cynthia Bloodgood
Sound Design: Robin Whitehouse and Desha Crownover



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