Theater Review: LITTLE WOMEN, THE BROADWAY MUSICAL (Chance Theater in Anaheim)

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by William C. on December 6, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


The four March sisters come alive on the stage of Bette Aitken theater arts Center in Anaheim. The Chance Theater’s returning production of Little Women, The Broadway Musical — book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, music by Jason Howland — is a triumph, as well as a testament to the artistic capabilities of small local theaters everywhere. I dare you to not shed a single tear in this heartwarming and gut-wrenching production.

Camie Del Rosario, Emily Abeles, Maggie Randolph,
Katherine Chatman, and Sarah Pierce

This 2005 musical adaptation follows closely to the original semi-biographical two-volume novel with the same title by Louisa May Alcott. Vignettes centering around the four endearing March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, are slices of life that encapsulate many emotions and experiences which we all share while growing up. This coming-of-age novel is a time capsule of Civil War-era America but the various experiences surrounding our young heroines is universal.

Emily Abeles, Camie Del Rosario, and Sarah Pierce

Take for example, Meg, the older responsible sister, who wants to fit into the society. Her aspiration is to look after her sisters and take care of her mother yet she also wishes to start a family of her own. Standing in direct contrast, the lead heroine, Jo — the dreamer and rebel — wants nothing to do with love, marriage, or anything which confines her to the expected female domestic duties. Jo wants to be a writer, an unlikely profession for women at the time. Beth, the sweet but sickly angel, takes on the role as peacekeeper and cheerleader to her fellow sisters. Bratty Amy, the youngest sister, fantasizes of a life surrounded with finer things. Unsurprisingly, these colorful characters — watched over by their very tired single mother Marmee — bicker, love, tease and get into mischief. Themes of unconditional and romantic love and sorrow and loss permeate the family

Emily Abeles and Sarah Pierce

Another central theme is money and class. The March family lives in genteel poverty, which is to say they are raised in the ways of upper-class folks yet are penniless. Their neighbor, Mr. Lawrence is a wealthy widow who has become bitter in his solitude. In the musical version, Mr. Lawrence holds a particular disgust towards the poor March family. A similar disdain for the March sisters can be found in their Aunt Josephine March, a rich widow that has taken it upon herself to educate Jo and her fellow sisters on the cruelty of life, especially a life of poverty.

Katherine Chatman, Camie Del Rosario, Emily Abeles, Sarah Pierce

I have nothing but praise for the talented stellar cast. Sarah Pierce (Jo) is a singing sensation. Her body language, physical theater chops and stage persona has the audience emoting with her. With astounding pipes, she gives a memorable performance of the power ballad “Astonishing”. The voices blend beautifully, when Ms. Pierce is joined by Katherine Chatman (Meg), Emily Abeles (Beth), and Camie Del Rosario (Amy) in “Our Finest Dreams”, a song about sisterly love.

Sarah Pierce and Zac Swan Van Lent

Jennifer Spark’s portrayal of Aunt March is a class on comedic acting. Her performance in “Could You?” is a riot. A classic and iconic moment occurs when she exits the stage holding a steady look of disgust well beyond the lights. Glenn Koppel as Mr. Laurence plays a lovable grandpa and captured our hearts in his duet with Beth in “Off to Massachusetts”.  Zac Swan Van Lent (Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, young friend to the family and Jo) and Christopher Diem (John Brooke, Meg’s husband), both complement the ladies. Tucker Boyes (Professor Bhaer) blew the roof off with his sonorous and sweet voice in “Small Umbrella in the Rain”.

Jennifer Sparks and Sarah Pierce

I want to give a very special shout out to Maggie Randolph’s portrayal of Marmee March. She is very convincing as a tired but loving matriarch of this robust family. I am simply floored by her ability to deliver heartbreaking lines so beautifully. Especially in the heart-wrenching number, “Days of Plenty”. I am amazed by her ability to perform with good vocal techniques and emotion. How did she not simply not break down even as my husband and I had tears running down our faces?

Tucker Boyes and Sarah Pierce

Congratulations to director Casey Long. He has really created a wonderful piece of art. And between his sound design and James Markoski’s sound engineering skills, this is the best sound system and vocal mix that I have heard in a long time. Gabrielle Maldonado is a fantastic music director and performed beautifully on the upright piano. I truly, truly wished that the production had at least a mini-grand to support the strong voices of the cast, but Maestro Maldonado’s musical precision made up for the instrument’s deficiencies.

Glenn Koppel and Emily Abeles

Aaron McGee’s fight choreography adds much to the playfulness; Carole Zelinger’s costumes clearly signal the time period and the economic reality of the March household; Masako Tobaru’s production design reminds us of this musical’s literary origin with novel pages projected on the wall. Let’s not forget, good theater can not happen without an equally competent stage manager, Jordan Jones. Bravo to the entire production team. As a gift to yourself, go see this jewel in Orange County.

Katherine Chatman and Christopher Diem

photos by Doug Catiller and Camryn Long

Little Women — The Broadway Musical
Chance Theater
Cripe Stage @ Bette Aitken theater arts Center, 5522 E. La Palma in Anaheim
Thu at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sat & Sun at 3
ends on December 23, 2022
for tickets, call 888.455.4212 or visit Chance

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