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Little Women
Little Women
Arc Light Productions
July 24 - 26

By Jarrod Bainter

When I think of Little Women I think of a story full of charm, heartache, and bravery and it’s safe to say that Arc Light Productions’ take on the stage musical doesn’t disappoint. Little Women: The Broadway Musical is the retelling of the American Classic with the script by Allan Knee, set to the music by Jason Howland and the lyrics of Mindi Dickstein. Little Women is a mostly autobiographical recounting of the life of the original novel’s author, Louisa May Alcott. The central character being Josephine March, who prefers to go by Jo, an aspiring writer bucking social norms who loves nothing more than her sisters Amy, Beth, Meg, and mother Marmee.  The women go through their various trials and tribulations of love, loss, and growing older at the end of the Civil War. In the end it is a tale of strength in all it’s forms and with most of the main characters being women in a time of tragedy and social barriers it is particularly moving.

The performance of Alli Davis as Jo sets the tone for the evening at the very start as she energetically tells, rather sings, one of the stories Jo has written, literally conjuring the characters right off the page with her voice. Her wit and charm quickly become the glue that holds the family and community of the show together. My favorite moments however, were when all the March women were sharing the stage together. Blisse Stanford as Beth, Traci Knott as
Amy, and Becca Mills as Meg, along with Davis make a fantastic ensemble as the sisters; showing all the individual personalities of the characters, which together make up the solid foundation of the March family, as well as the show. This being most obvious in the song “Five Forever” where they induct their neighbor and new friend, Laurie Laurence played by Zach Daly, into the close knit family. Not to be forgotten is Kate Mills as the matron March, Marmee, who’s vocal performances touch the heart as she laments the absence of her husband at war in the song “Here Alone” and the way things did, or will turn out for her daughters in “Days of Plenty”.

I credit Director Rachel Roderick for assembling the fine cast and cultivating the clear sense of family that emits from the stage. With the abundance of characters, storylines, and the use of flashbacks in the script it is easy to see how the plot might get lost, but the story and the heart of the family are clearly defined making the show endearing to the audience. Emily Pritchard’s Musical Direction is clearly visible, or rather audible as well. Especially when the cast sings as an ensemble as the strong voices bend together creating a musical link to that sense of community that permeates the show. Though there are several individual performances which are balanced well with the 7 piece orchestra.

The set by Veronica Lee is simple, yet works creatively to establish the various locations we visit on this journey. I particularly liked how the attic was set apart and made to look different than the rest of the world as it was Jo’s space and helped me to imagine how she must have felt in the world she found herself in. I did find that it was difficult to see in some scenes as the lighting created dark shadows on the faces of the actors, but lighting was also used very effectively when Jo reads her stories and brings the characters to life.

Arc Light Productions’ Little Women: The Broadway Musical runs Friday & Saturday, July 24 and 25 at 7:30 pm and the Sunday, July 26th at 2:30 pm at Illini Bluffs High School. Tickets are $7 for Adults and $5 for Seniors and kids under 12. All seats are General Admission.   For tickets call 309-455-4095

Posted on July 24, 2015 


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