Little Women: Bringing an Astonishing Classic to Life on Stage

BY JAKE BRYANT

It’s that time of year again: the CHS Spring Musical is upon us! This year’s production, Little Women, shows on March 7th, 8th, and 9th at 7:00pm, in the CHS Auditorium. For those unfamiliar, Little Women follows the four March sisters — Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy— as they attempt to find their place in the world, against a backdrop of Civil-War-era Massachusetts. With a dazzling score by Jason Howland, the musical takes a fresh perspective on Louisa May Alcott’s timeless tale. The CHS Drama Department takes this one step further by blending abstract, innovative technical elements with realistic costumes and characterizations to create a unique reimagining of a story that has had its fair share of adaptations and analyses.

One of the ways Little Women tells its story is through set. For Cary High’s production, the set is comprised of the realistic furniture of the March home, as well as several “sides” that are used to delineate the different settings and worlds explored throughout the story. From forming the walls of Aunt March’s intimidating mansion, to marking the columns of Annie Moffat’s ballroom, to creating the hearth of the March home itself, these sides are created with a breathtaking pastel palette (painted by the CHS Art Club) and move and breathe like another character in the show.

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The stage is set for another captivating scene in the March house

Another way the novel is brought to life is through the use of projections. Given the episodic, vignette-like nature of both Alcott’s original book and its musical adaptation, projections are used to indicate to the audience when and where the story is jumping. Though not a dominating feature, they aid the audience in fully entering the world of the story.

These tech elements are paired with music that honors the story’s antique charm while providing a contemporary edge. Some of the musical’s songs, like Beth and Mr. Lawrence’s cheerful ditty “Off to Massachusetts,” have a quaint, toe-tapping sound that harken back to the days of old musical theatre. Others, like the Act One finale belted out by Jo entitled “Astonishing,” provide a contemporary musical theatre sound that prevent the show from becoming merely a period piece.

Perhaps this juxtaposition of the old and the new takes after the novel itself. Little Women was first published in 1868, a time when few protagonists were strong females and even fewer of those protagonists were empowering. The character of Jo March is possibly one of the most revolutionary in American Literature, as she is the one to pilot her fate and choose her path in life, instead of a husband or father choosing it for her. At the time, Louisa May Alcott’s deft depiction of such a personality was groundbreaking, and this cutting-edge spirit has not been lost in the musical. Despite the fact that the tale has been around for 150 years, its messages about deep family connections and steering one’s destiny in the face of hurdles and challenges are everlasting, and will continue to inspire and uplift children for generations to come.

Want to see this beautiful story unfold before your eyes? Come see Little Women on March 7th, 8th, and 9th in the CHS Auditorium! Buy tickets at http://caryhsperformingarts.com/

Until then, check out this beautiful promotional video created by Michael Shorb: