By John Lyle Belden
For anyone who enjoyed – or haven’t read and are curious about – the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, I highly recommend “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre through Sept. 26.
The story of the four March sisters coming of age in 1860s Concord, Mass., is told in a nicely-paced play that gives each moment its proper weight, then breezes to the next with the help of a song or two. We meet Jo (Julia Bonnett), the headstrong writer bursting with confident energy; beautiful Meg (Betsy Norton); musical and tragic Beth (Amanda Kennedy); and Amy (Karen Woods Hurt), whose brash immaturity at first makes her the least likable, but results in making her the most complex and interesting of these four characters – a credit to Hurt as well as the musical’s book by Allan Knee. Still, the narrative is from Jo’s point of view, and Bonnett is more than up to the task.
For the rest of the cast: Katie Schuman embodies wise mom Marmee. Dan Scharbrough perfectly balances menace and paternal kindness as gruff Mr. Laurence, who lives next door. Ethan Mathias ably handles the growing conflicting emotions of Professor Bhaer, Jo’s neighbor in New York. Ethan Litt and Justin Klein lend appropriate boyish energies to the roles of Laurie and Brooke, the young men in the girls’ lives. And Vickie Cornelius Phipps is excellent as fussy Aunt March, as well as Mrs. Kirk, Jo and Bhaer’s landlord.
This would be an excellent show for those with “little women” (or men) who could see themselves in the characters. Jo’s enthusiasm, especially, is contagious, perhaps encouraging those who would want to write up some stories themselves. The Tarkington stage is at The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel. Call 317-843-3800 for tickets.