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Photos by Josh Murphy, Chosen Creations

As a girl who fell in love with the novel Little Women at a young age, I constantly strived to get my hands on every rendition of the beloved classic I could find growing up, from the many different film adaptations to the 2017 television mini-series. I was thrilled to finally watch the musical version live on stage for the first time at Capital One Hall and experience its dazzling numbers, beautiful period costumes, and memorable performances.

Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women was adapted as a musical with a book by Allan Knee, including lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music created by Jason Howland. It opened on Broadway on January 23, 2005, then quickly closed on May 22, 2005. The story follows the four March sisters during the Civil War era, including Meg (played by Rachel Pantazis), the oldest and traditional romantic, Jo (Hannah Taylor), the aspiring writer who refuses to follow the status quo, Beth (Camryn Hamm), the timid, shy, and kind one, and Amy (Noa Harris), the immature, but lovable, youngest sister. While being raised by their mother, affectionately known as “Marmee” (Aaron Bower), the daughters face struggles that test their relationships, including poverty, an absent father fighting in the war, and pressure to conform to societal expectations.

As the play progresses, the audience watches these four girls mature into young women, seeing Meg fall in love, Jo gain independence, Beth spread kindness and love, and Amy take a path to self-discovery. Traditionally, the benefit of a musical adaptation is that the songs provide a gateway into the personalities and emotions of each character to better understand and relate to them on a more personal level. While I believe this adaptation fails to accomplish this and instead focuses too much on the male love interests and romantic ballads, I do think the actors in this production give their all as they provide heart, passion, and strength to their characters.

A unique route this particular production took was its emphasis on the storytelling aspect. Since the play opens up with Professor Bhaer (Mychael Leverage) introducing the show and Jo’s writing talent, we immediately see her fairytale characters come to life as they reenact the story she’s written in the number “An Operatic Tragedy”. These fairytale characters (played by Tristan Caldwell, Emily Kate Decker, Elijah Pearson Martinez, and Sami Kennett) remain throughout the entire musical, watching the show from the sidelines and moving set pieces during transitions, allowing Jo’s story to continuously develop and unfold right before the audience’s eyes.

What the show lacked in its pacing and character development, the cast made up for in their chemistry and stage presence. Not only did they give mesmerizing solo performances in numbers like “Astonishing” “Days of Plenty”, and “Fire Within Me”, but the duet performances including “Some Things Were Meant to Be”, “Could You”, and “The Most Amazing Thing” were just as heartwarming as they were entertaining in their soothing and mesmerizing harmonies.

Another impressive element of the production was the set design, which transported us to the many settings the March sisters stepped foot in, including Jo’s attic, the March living room, and the beach, in a visually appealing way without feeling over the top or like the setting took away from the storyline and performances.

The actors seemed very at home onstage, which you could feel through their numbers and standout performances. Watching Taylor take command of the room in each scene as the wild and rebellious Jo constantly put a smile on my face as she stole the show with her adventurous, childlike wonder. Both Hamm and Bower broke my heart while delivering beautiful and captivating performances as Beth and Marmee. The notes Bower hit with such passion and emotion were beautiful and entrancing. Harris somehow found a way to perfectly portray Amy as the classic little sister who was childish, but endearing all at once. One character I have never loved in any adaptation was Aunt March (Moriel Behar), but the way Behar portrayed her in this production as the obnoxious, wealthy aunt with no filter had me laughing and loving every minute she was on stage.

While the men did a great job of playing love interests and acquaintances of the March women, I was a little disappointed that some parts of the story focused too much on them and less on the women. There were still moments where it was clear the cast and director, Jeffrey B. Moss, were working to pull the focus back onto the main theme of sisterhood with blocking that exemplified the love and closeness the characters desperately needed and felt for each other. Though I see this show thriving more as a play rather than a musical format, this particular production successfully conveys the principal themes of gender roles, morality and society, and the importance of family.

Final Grade: B+

“Little Women” ran from May 17 to 19, 2024, at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission.

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