Little Women written by Louisa May Alcott, is perhaps known as one of the most formative works of literature when it comes to young women. So it’s no surprise that it has been adapted countless times for screen and stage, perhaps most notably the 2019 film directed by Greta Gerwig and the 2005 musical starring Sutton Foster in the main role of Jo March.
The most recent edit of this story is currently in progress at the Artistry Theater and Visual Arts in Bloomington, Minnesota. It’s a clean but beautiful production that focuses on the characters themselves, rather than sets of grandeur. While the set may be mostly bare, with the exception of two walls that continuously change with lighting effects to reflect the time of day, or building interiors accompanied by a handful of furniture, that’s it. what is necessary in a small theater to convey the places that the characters inhabit.
The main stars of the show are of course the music and the actors, both of whom shine brightly. With music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, the tempo, melodies and lyrics lend themselves beautifully to the story told on stage. As a keen listener of the original album, I found myself uttering the words behind my mask and tapping my foot as the live orchestra played enthusiastically.
For those who do not know music, know that there is hardly a weak link in the list of songs. From the triumphant “Astonishing”, performed with passion by lead actress Madeline Trumble, to the heart-wrenching “Days of Plenty”, delivered with incredible rawness by Kersten Rodau, you’re sure to feel every emotion on the spectrum.
I wouldn’t be doing a favor if I didn’t see Kersten Rodau, who caused a sensation in the role of Marmee March. His role is not the most important, but his performance was outstanding among the eight actors. She shows off her star power from the get-go with a broken-hearted “Here Alone” where she complains about her difficulties raising four young girls on her own, but refuses to reveal this pain in her letter to her husband who serves in the war. As production progressed, I found myself hoping for more from her in the story, but found that the less she was on stage, the more effective she was when she came out of the backstage.
Playing such a solid performance can be a challenge, but the entire cast rise to the occasion and show off their acting and voice skills time and time again. By the time we reach Ms. Trumble’s “Astonishing” we’ve already been through so, emotionally, that we’re looking for a powerful, uplifting act, a finale to bring us home to intermission and we get it. Channeling her inner Sutton Foster, Mrs. Trumble delivers a final note, selling every ounce of her emotion down the back row.
The book of the musical, adapted by Allan Knee, does its best to condense a massive book into a short period of time and it becomes evident that he struggled a bit in the second act. It’s almost too fast that we can’t fully appreciate the growth the characters are experiencing. While it feels rushed and feels more like a reel of highlights than a naturally evolving story, it hits the main points and still delivers the emotion that every character deserves.
As in the past, Artistry approaches shows that can think outside the box and this is no exception. They put all their blood, sweat and tears to present the best version of the story and I applaud them for it. Little Women: The Broadway Musical is on view at the Artistry Theater and Visual Arts in Bloomington until November 28. This is the perfect holiday spectacle to watch, especially on a cold or snowy Minnesota night, so “Take a Chance” and I’m sure you will have a wonderful evening of local theater.
Bradley Johnson, Matthew Hall (Photo credit: Lucas Wells)
Brian Frutiger, Lauren Hugh (Photo credit: Lucas Wells)
Madeline Trumble (Photo credit: Lucas Wells)
Lauren Hugh, Madeline Trumble, Kersten Rodau,
Camryn Buelow, Shinah Hey (Photo credit: Lucas Wells)
Angela Timberman, Madeline Trumble (Photo credit: Lucas Wells)