The University of Nevada Reno’s Church Fine Arts building was filled with silent sobs and catchy tunes during performances of the “Little Women” musical.
In five performances from Oct. 8 through 16, the “Little Women” showcase highlighted the impressive efforts of the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
The original 2005 Broadway musical follows the March family through a Civil War-inspired setting of emotional turmoil and character growth based on the classic 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott.
In the university showcase, Jo March, played by Jacklynn Haughn, has a total girl-boss attitude. She writes goofy novels with numerous “blood and guts” scenes and refuses to get married; she feels she doesn’t need a man to advance her career. Haughn’s vocals match the persona excellently—a powerful set of chords knock all of her songs right out of the park, making room for more than a few monumental Jo moments.
On the flip side, Amy March, played by Alyssa Granger, is obsessed with going to balls and falling in love, constantly hoping to find a husband to sweep her off her feet and fill her need for pretty riches. Amy doesn’t get many songs in this play, but when she does sing, it feels like the rhythm and softness of her voice floats the listener into a new world of dreams.
These two sisters often clash heads throughout the story, both constantly showing the immaturities of their age. The thick tension that Haughn and Granger portray between their characters is convincing. Even the character development of the two sisters is easily distinguished—although it is clear Jo, being older than Amy, is still the most mature of the two.
The eldest sister, Meg March, played by Natalie Gonzalez, falls madly in love with John Brooke, played by Abraham Hunsaker, the moment they meet. The chemistry between the two characters is beautifully depicted. Gonzalez and Hunsaker gripped the crowd’s full attention as the emotional love story between the two developed into a marriage with twins. John eventually enlists for the war and the lovers share an emotional duet, “More Than I Am”. Gonzalez and Hunsaker had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, completely mesmerized by the blossoming romance.
Even though the audience was captivated by the love story of John and Meg, it was the final scene of Jo and Beth March’s duet, “Some Things Are Meant to Be”, which destroyed their hopes and dreams. Beth March, played by Madi Allen, contracts scarlet fever, becoming weak and frail in the last few scenes of Act II. When she says goodbye to Jo while flying a kite for the first time, they sing a heart-wrenching song with one another, forcing the crowd to whip out their tissues as the tears ensue.
On a happier note, Aunt March, played by Jasmine Johnson, lightened the show by being the most comedic character. Aunt March’s lines bring complete joy to the musical, making the people in the crowd constantly laugh when she appears on stage.
Even in the emotional scene at the end, when Jo and Aunt March finally stop clashing heads, Aunt March makes a hilarious remark criticizing Jo’s dress—which just so happened to be hers once before. Aunt March snarkily muttered the dress had looked better on her, causing an outbreak of laughter to erupt amongst the audience.
The whole musical had a comedic take on “Little Women”, making it more of a light-hearted story rather than one full of emotion and conflict from one scene to the next.
The show did have its functioning faults lingering in the background, though.
Occasionally, the music would clip or rise above the characters’ voices, making it hard to hear what was being said or sung. There was also the issue of time. It was hard to see how the show was progressing time-wise in comparison to the musical’s plotline because the characters never got older or changed appearance—except for Beth who had to look frail and sick in the second act.
However, regardless of the technical side of things, the characters’ efforts to match one another’s voices and paces in each song was very well-rehearsed. There was never a song where one person overlapped another with their vocals. The song, “Our Finest Dreams” which all four sisters performed, also had the most beautiful harmonization, like something out of a Disney fairytale.
Jo’s friendship with Theodore “Laurie” Lawrence III, played by Lucas Moir, was purely platonic and entertaining. The tom-boy connection Jo had with an innocent boy like Laurie was adorable to watch and well-portrayed.
However, Haughn and Moir had provided absolutely no chemistry in their characters’ friendship whatsoever. In all previous adaptations of “Little Women”, Jo and Laurie always give the audience the underlying appeal that they could be together, only for Jo to deny him; but in the university’s musical, the love Laurie shows for Jo is simply not there and makes fans wonder why he even confessed his love for her at all if there was no romance.
While on the topic of chemistry, it was obvious there should be at least some chemistry in the love story between Laurie and Amy, the youngest sister of the bunch. And yet, the audience was left dangling from their final engagement scene, wondering where the actor and actress went wrong with their connection.
The bubbly persona of Amy was played well by Granger, as she showed off her immature sense of entitlement and the constant jealousy of Jo that always lingered in the back of her mind. She even had hinted at signs of lingering gazes and flirty phrases towards Laurie, but it all appeared to be one-sided.
The one-sidedness was the goal at first for the duo; however, it continued to be the case even during the engagement. Moir simply lacked the chemistry with his co-stars which resulted in the audience feeling no connection with either of his love interests. It was like watching the biggest flirt in the world talk to a brick wall, expecting an answer different from its blatant silence. The chemistry between Laurie and any of the characters lacked, which practically flushed most of his scenes down the drain.
That’s not to say that Laurie’s individual scenes were bad, though.
Regardless of Laurie’s lack of chemistry, his personality had a fitting take with this musical. Laurie’s eagerness to please and puppy-dog personality as he follows Jo around was the sweetest way to portray his character. Moir was definitely somewhat fit for the character. His dance moves weren’t so bad either, providing a good attention-grabber to fill in the dull moments.
With that being said, Marmee March’s character may have been one of the most well-casted. Marmee, the mother of the four girls, played by Adelynn Tourondel, has a husband fighting in the war while she is home raising her family on her own.
Tourondel’s solo, “Here Alone”, brings Marmee’s character to a whole new level, making her character’s depth evolve more intricately than any other character in the musical. Tourondel’s vocals reach all new levels, hitting every note and striking the audience right into a spiral of untamed emotions.
Marmee stole the show with this song.
The entire scene with the lights, music, vocals, backdrop and characters’ expressive emotions sets the scene of loneliness in an absolutely phenomenal way.
Overall, each character had their own little quirks the audience may or may not have liked, but the casting of the musical was just average. They didn’t always fit the image people had in mind for the characters (Moir, for example, does appear to be a Garrett Clayton look-alike).
However, even if the role didn’t fit them as well as could’ve been, every character magnificently conquered their roles as best they could and gripped the listeners with their vocal prowesses.
Even though the “Little Women” musical was carried from Broadway to the university’s smaller Proscenium Theatre stage, the actresses and actors did a remarkable job making the characters their own and reminding the audience to never forget their incredible talents.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.