UM-FLINT’S “LITTLE WOMEN” THE BROADWAY MUSICAL IS NEAR FLAWLESS

Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler

Little Women The Broadway Musical opened at UM-Flint’s Theatre on Friday evening.  The musical is based on the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  The book for the musical was written by Allan Knee, the music by Jason Howland, and the lyrics by Mindi Dickstein.

Little Women was an exciting and energetic show.  They gave a near flawless performance for opening night.  We highly recommend this show for people of all ages.  This production has been entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.  It doesn’t take long to see why it was chosen.

Although there were a couple of technical problems in Act II, the performance was not affected.  The backstage crew did a very professional job of solving the problems with only minor delays.

Louisa May Alcott’s is story about four sisters growing up during the turbulence of the Civil War.  Their father is off to fight in the war and their mother is in charge.  Like the main character named Jo, Alcott was a tomboy with a rich imagination.  Reaching adulthood is difficult and these young girls experience a wide range of good and bad things.  They learn that life is all about change and how to deal with it.

The musical is fast-paced right from the beginning and never lets up.  Production director Stephanie Dean and her staff are to be commended.  The overall choreography was well done especially the Operatic Tragedy and the Volcano Press.

Little Women was well cast in terms of the skill and the personalities of the characters.  Jillian Hoffman plays Jo March the show’s lead.  She is a dynamo on stage, demonstrating great range.  The storytelling scenes of Act I and Act II were strong and well choreographed.  Her energy never waned from start to finish.  She drew us in and kept us there.

The rest of the cast was equally as strong.  Jodie Maier as Meg, Kristen Seeley as Beth, and Allison Kimber as Amy played Jo’s three sisters.  They were fun to watch and presented three distinct characters.  Mary Paige Rieffel was strong in her performance as their mother, Marmee March.   Brooke Chartrand, who played Aunt March, was also good and used the cane very effectively.  All of these actors sang beautifully and were a lively group.

As Professor Bhaer, Bobby Anderson performed well in what turns out to be
Jo’s love interest.  Austin Meyer was also effective as Laurie Lawrence and sang well.  Matt Mitchell, Paul Docter, Jillian Mac were a good supporting cast.

The bi-level set was beautiful.  It was simple, yet quite effective.  The old fashioned red couch in the middle of the set was nicely dramatic, and the attic was a powerful acting platform.  The sky backdrop and the window were nice touches.  UM-Flint made good use of the backdrops and scrims, costumes were beautiful, and both choreography and music were wonderful.  All of the elements of the show worked together as one and that made the musical even more delightful to watch and enjoy.

There were some minor issues with several cast members around volume and accent.  We don’t think the Union soldiers in the Civil War wore spats, but the actor wore a blue uniform and a kewpie hat which was good.  However, these were very minor points.

Little Women The Broadway Musical will be performed on March 24, 30, 31, 7:30pm and March 25 and April 1 at 2pm.  UM-Flint Theatre is located at 303 E. Kearsley St., Flint MI, 48502-1950.  For tickets call 819-237-6520 or 6522.

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