Review: Little Women the Musical at Third Wall Productions

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission

Cast of Little Women the Musical. Credit: Karen Osborn, House of Bankerd

This season, I’ve seen more Victorian age stories brought to the stage than I’ve seen in my entire life (only about three, but still) and, I’m not a huge fan of this era with its stuffy clothes and attention to the particulars of etiquette and all that jazz but, I have to say, aside from the style (with which all the Costume Designers did impeccable work), I actually enjoyed to the stories being told. Thus is the case with Third Wall Productions’ latest production, Little Women the Musical with Book by Allan Knee, Music by Jason Howland, and Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, based on the novel by Lousia May Alcott. This production is Directed by Christine Thomas with Music Direction by Eliza van Kan, Set Design by Jordan Hollett, and Costume Design by Lisa Ann Dickinson and makes for a charming evening of relatable and enjoyable musical theatre.

Set Design by regular Third Wall Productions designer Jordan Hollet is massive, to say the least. Well, for the space at Third Wall Productions, it’s massive. With essentially four different scene settings, an outdoor garden, a living room, an attic, and a small parlor room, Hollet has managed to cleverly fit all of this in the space provided him. The one level design works quite well, with an elevated attic area, but there are spots in the audience where the action is not easily seen. However, that being said, it’s really the nature of the beast with spaces like this and of no real fault to the designer. Just note that the phrase, “Not a bad seat in the house” does not apply here as there are a few seats that aren’t ideal. Overall, the set design is innovative and creative and helps the story along very nicely and keeps the action interesting.

Grace Dillon, Mea Holloway, Lizzy Jackson, Maggie Flanigan, and J. Purnell Hargrove. Credit: Karen Osborn, House of Bankerd

Lisa Ann Dickson, with the help of House of Bankerd gives us an on point Costume Design for this piece. As stated, this is a Victorian era story and the wardrobe may be just as important as the story itself and Dickson knocks it out of the ballpark with this one. The attention to detail and style are exquisite and seem to be tailor made for each performer. Dickinson and House of Bankerd are to be commended for the fantastic Costume Design of this piece.

I admit I was expecting a different type of score walking into this as I had never experienced Little Women the Musical before but I was pleasantly surprised. The music for this piece is quite contemporary and entertaining and is allowed to shine under Music Direction by Eliza van Kan. The ensemble has a very good, strong sound and seems to make easy work of this score. It’s worth mentioning the pit orchestra for this piece gives a polished, accomplished performance as well. Though the orchestra may have drowned out the cast, at times, and weren’t as tight as they usually are (here and there), they still give a very good showing in this production.

Christine Thomas not only plays Marmee March in this production, but she also takes the helm of it and her vision for this piece is apparent as she brings the story of the March girls to the stage. She keeps the action moving and seems to really grasp the story of these ladies – some who are traditional for their time and some who are forward thinkers. She understands the relationship between these sisters and the different stories going on in this piece and presents them beautifully though, the link between the characters is a little weak and the chemistry is there, but at times seems as though the actors are just going through the motions. Regardless, the entire ensemble works well together and creates Thomas’ vision nicely and the solo moments are absolutely lovely. As Marmee March, she is a vocal powerhouse. She has a strong, clean vocal style and commands the stage with every note in her solos “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty.” Her portrayal as the matriarch of four daughters is admirable and she seems quite comfortable in the role.

Producer Mike Zellhoffer steps onto the stage as the seemingly curmudgeon neighbor, Mr. Laurence, and Patricia Brunker takes on the role of the actual curmudgeon Aunt March. Both Zellhoffer and Brunker give commendable, authentic performances complimenting the story and the other characters while helping move the story forward. Brunker gives a terrific vocal performance and totally embodies the character of Aunt March and all her stuffiness, while Zellhoffer transitions nicely from stern to kind in his wonderful character work.

Grace Dillon, Mea Holloway, Lizzy Jackson, Maggie Flanigan, and J. Purnell Hargrove. Credit: Karen Osborn, House of Bankerd

Purnell Hargrove takes on the role of the amiable Laurie Laurence, quite literally the boy next door and close friend to the March sisters. Hargrove gives a committed and confident performance and has good chemistry with his cast mates. He looks like he’s having a blast up on the stage and, in his featured numbers “Take a Chance on Me” and “Five Forever,” he seems to be pushing his upper range, vocally, but still gives a commendable showing.

Taking on the role of the youngest sister, Amy March, Lizzy Jackson has a good comprehension of this character and plays her well, though, at times, is a bit scripted in her delivery. However, that being said, she nails the demeanor and personality of this character and plays the transition of Amy March beautifully.

Maggie Flanigan tackles the role of the eldest sister, Meg March, and does so with gusto. She works well with her fellow actresses and her portrayal of Meg makes her a likeable character who’s just trying to find her own way in life with Mr. John Brooke, played by Andrew Pedrick. According to his bio, Pedrick is making his way back to the stage after a decade or so and though he’s quite natural, the character gets lost, sometimes, and I see Andrew Pedrick onstage rather than John Brooke. However, as soon as Pedrick opens his mouth to sing as in his featured number “More Than I Am,” a duet with the able Maggie Flanigan, it’s pure art. He has a smooth, resonating tone and I found myself putting down my pen just to listen to him.

Patricia Brunker and Grace Dillon. Credit: Karen Osborn, House of Bankerd

Daniel Plante takes on the role of Professor Bhaer, the serious and stern fellow boarder to Jo March at a New York City boarding house. Plante’s interpretation is spot on and authentic and though he decided not to use an accent (the character is German), it doesn’t hinder his performance in the least. Vocally, Plante has a unique sound and, technically, gives a superb performance of “How I Am” making for a strong performance overall.

Regular, Mea Holloway takes on the role of the gentle Beth March, the other middle sister who has a sweetness and saintliness about her that the other sisters don’t seem to have. Holloway plays this part to the hilt and impressively portrays the sweet nature of this character consistently throughout. She impeccably interprets her featured songs, “Off to Massachusetts” and the poignant “Some Things are Meant to Be” and she embodies this character wholly.

Grace Dillon as Jo March. Credit: Karen Osborn, House of Bankerd

Grace Dillon as Jo March couldn’t have been cast more perfectly. Dillon takes this role and runs with it, making it her own while sticking to the basics of this character of the exuberant, exciting, forward thinking, middle sister, Jo March. With high energy and a seemingly complete grasp of this character and her objectives, Dillon is authentic and confident in this part. She has a great command of the stage and, aside from her acting abilities, gives an outstanding vocal performance as well. As the evening progresses, she seems to pull back, but still gives powerful performances in songs such as “Astonishing” and “The Fire Within Me”. Kudos to Dillon for a job well done.

Final thought… Little Women the Musical at Third Wall Productions is an enjoyable and stimulating piece that this company executes wonderfully. The story is entertaining and relevant, concerning itself with the struggle of woman and the different choices different women make each day, even if they are cut from the same cloth. With strong female characters, the message of finding one’s own way and overcoming any obstacle is clear and apparent. With a fun score and a clever script, the story is easy to understand and the performances are top notch. Whether you’re familiar with the story or seeing it for the first time, Little Women the Musical will delight and entertain and is a production well worth its price of admission.

This is what I thought of Third Wall Productions’ production of Little Women the Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Little Women the Musical will play through May 21 at Third Wall Productions, 5801 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21206. For tickets, call 443-838-4064 or purchase them online.

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