It’s been a long time since I covered live theatre for my college newspaper, so my review skills probably need some honing. I’m also on a budget these days, so when my friend Lara invited me to the final dress tech rehearsal for Little Women at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Wednesday night, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a show that was on my “must see” list for 2015 and also review it in time for my friends to have a chance to see it (those of you who know me well know that I am infamous for attending final performances and then raving about how great it was).
I don’t know where to begin. I cannot think of one time during the 2 hour 40 minute (give or take) production that I was not emotionally charged. From the opening scene where Jo March (Sims Lamason) is acting out one of her stories to Professor Bhaer (Chad Bradford) through the end of the performance when you watch them walk hand in hand through the garden gate, I was mesmerized. Being around live theatre for a good portion of my life, I find myself easily distracted and restless after about 2 hours of most performances, but this was not the case with Little Women. This production did what any good production (in my mind) should do. There were moments when I laughed out loud, such as when Jo mimicked the actors portraying her characters as she told her story to Professor Bhaer or when the sisters got into a rough and tumble pile in the attic while performing their “operatic tragedy”. But there were just as many moments where I shed tears. –(SPOILER ALERT)- Even though I knew that Beth March (Carly Schneider) would die from scarlet fever, the scene on the beach at Cape Cod when she pleads with Jo to let her go was so real that I am tearing up even now just thinking about it, and when Jo sobs to Marmee (Camille Metoyer Moten) that she just wants Beth back and if she hadn’t moved away to New York City to pursue her dream of being a famous writer this never would have happened, I could feel her pain radiating through my own body as I thought of loved ones taken too soon.
This story is a classic and though I have loved movies based on the book, I wasn’t sure how it would translate to a musical, but it does, quite splendidly in fact. Ballads such as “Here Alone”, “Some Things Are Meant To Be” and “How I Am” resonate passion while the more catchy numbers such as “An Operatic Tragedy”, “Could You” and “The Weekly Volcano Press” have you laughing, tapping your foot and wanting to dance along.
The cast are all extremely talented, but I have to admit, I was pretty giddy with excitement when I saw that Camille Metoyer Moten was playing Marmee and it was nice to see names familiar to me from other OCP productions like Tim Abou-Nasr (Laurie) and Bill Hutson (Mr. Laurence). I could go on and on about how expertly they each played their roles, but suffice it to say, there was not a single weak, or so-so performer in this production. Sims Lamason blew me away in the role of Jo, however, and at one point I leaned over to Lara and said that I could see her in the role of Elphaba in Wicked.
In a world long before “coming of age” stories were a dime a dozen, Little Women was a true “coming of age” story. Louisa May Alcott created strong independent women (and men who encouraged their strength and independence) in a time when young ladies were taught to marry well and move up in society. Although this musical will appeal to all ages and genders, I highly recommend mothers, daughters and sisters to attend together. I can’t think of a better mother/daughter, aunt/niece or sister/best friend outing than this. I also love that you can purchase a ticket package that includes a copy of the book, so what better way to get your daughter, granddaughter or niece interested in reading this classic than to let her see it live and then read it!
Little Women opens Friday, January 23 and runs through February 22 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. To purchase tickets or find out more about this incredible production, visit www.omahaplayhouse.com. If you’ve never attended a production at OCP, please do not let “Community” scare you away. These folks know what they are doing and every production is top rate.
There are some amazing stories behind several of the actors so I am including links to those as well! Enjoy!