REVIEW: Despite a few missteps, Belmont’s ‘Little Women’ brings life, light and fa
Belmont’s production of “Little Women” is a celebration of a classic but makes a few, unignorable mistakes.
The story follows the March sisters and has left audiences captivated for many years. Whether in novel, play, musical or movie, the Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy March are a strong group of women who continue to stay relevant.
The girls’ mother, who they call Marmee, says “one soul is not better than the other, they just need different room to grow.” This line encapsulates Belmont’s rendition of the show, and while their production didn’t stray from the original plot in any way, director Dr. Jane Duncan added some nuances specific to Belmont’s cast and crew.
I had high hopes for this production, and while many of them were met, I left feeling unfulfilled.
From beginning to end the show ran beautifully with very few bumps, but there were many times where I was taken out of the story and back to my seat in the Troutt Theatre.
While the set was charming, it wasn’t used to its full potential as the only pieces of the set that weren’t stagnant were the furniture and even those stayed in one place for the majority of the show.
It was tough to discern what parts of the show took place indoors versus outdoors and the only clue was an actor putting on a coat or a hat.
While this small cue was helpful, it was also distracting. The March women are meant to be on the brink of poverty, so how would one afford decadent, bright pink yarn for a knitted hat? Main character Jo March, played by Robin Carsner, wore a beanie with a pompom atop, a style that didn’t become popular until the 1930s.
Missteps like these take viewers out of the performance, away from the world that is being portrayed on stage and back to their own reality.
And while the set and the costuming emulated the original production, Carsner’s Jo took on a different role than one might expect. Often seen as the heroine of the “Little Women” tale, this production portrayed Jo more as the antagonist of the story. Rather than appearing ambitious and driven, Jo becomes quite selfish and incredibly insecure.
While other productions paint Jo as a woman trying to break the societal norms of her time, Belmont’s production turned the character from endearing and inspiring to self-centered and abrasive.
Making Jo’s character more of an egoist left room for the audience to connect better with a new sister: Beth March.
Although she is not the main character, McEwen Baker’s portrayal of the youngest March sister stole the show. Each and every time Beth spoke, it was genuine and authentic, breathing an air of calmness into the calamity of her sisters. It was in scenes with a bedridden Beth that the story really came together.
You could feel the sisters’ desperation to keep Beth safe and healthy.
You could see the family come together to support one of their own.
You could sense the honesty of the story, and how each sister is both independent and dependent on one another.
While this production was a different take on the classic March sisters’ story, the end still clearly revealed their deep love for each other, establishing that family meant more to them than anything else.
It was the love between the sisters that lingered around after the performance, bringing the audience to a standing ovation.
“Little Women” runs through Oct. 9 in the Troutt Theatre.
PHOTO: Players rehearse for “Little Women,” which opened Friday. Courtesy of Anna Johnson.
This review was written by Allynne Miller.