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‘Little Women’ Comes to Life Via St. Thomas Playhouse
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An older Jo March played by Elyse Duffield and Professor Bhaer played by Eva Hatzenbuehler look on as the characters in one of Jo’s fanciful novels come to life.
   
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

In “Little Women: The Musical” Aunt March challenges her headstrong niece Jo.

“Could you practice self-control? Could you possibly be shy? Could you wear a corset tight in the heat of mid-July?”

These are the rules a young woman growing up in America at the time of the Civil War must adhere to, her aunt continues: “Everyone which you defy…Yet somewhere deep within my heart I do believe, you could captivate the world.”

 
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Marmee March, played by Savina Barini, reads a letter from her husband and the girls’ father as the March girls played by lucy Lamoureux, Lizzie Loving, Ida Belle Gorby and Langley Bier look on.
 

Louisa May Alcott, who based Jo March on herself, did indeed make her mark on the world. While she thought the prose she wrote was lifeless and flat, it generated a fervor in 1868 that PBS has likened to that of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. And “Little Women” is still enchanting young girls today.

St. Thomas Playhouse Summer Theater Project will present “Little Women: The Musical” at 7 p.m. nightly through Saturday, July 23, at The Spot, 220 Lewis St. in Ketchum. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for those under 18, available at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35974/production/1130915 or by calling the church office at 208-726-5349.

The musical based on Louisa May Alcott’s life follows the adventures of sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March as they try to navigate life while their father is serving as a chaplain in the Civil War.

Many young girls have read the book and many more have seen one of the screen adaptations, including the 2019 film that was nominated for six Oscars. The story hit Broadway in 2004; it has even been made into an opera.

 
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Professor Bhaer, played by Eva Hatzenbuehler, tries to convinced Jo March, played by Elyse Duffield, that she needs to forego her fantastical novels and write more personal accounts of what she knows.
 

What makes the play so novel in today’s world is its niceness. There are no illicit love affairs, no deep dark family secrets, no one running around with a bomb. There are not even any villains.

The show opens after the Civil War. Jo lives in a boarding house in New York City hoping for word that she has been published after 22 rejections. To her dismay, a German professor encourages her to set aside her melodramatic writing to write of what she knows.

As she tries writing her personal account, the show flashes back to Concord, Mass., where Marmee March and her four girls are preparing to celebrate Christmas while their husband/father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War.

The cast features a variety of very talented high schoolers, college students and young adults who have spent the past few days rehearsing non-stop in the intimate space of The Spot.

 
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The March family shows off their St. Valentine’s Day ball gowns.
 

Ida Belle Gorby is perfectly cast as the enthusiastic free-thinking tomboyish Jo March who is obsessed with the dramatic while Elyse Duffield covers the older more thoughtful Jo. While Jo March could be considered a little self-obsessed and full of herself, the show’s most touching moment may lie in her  relationship with her frail sister Beth as the two sing “Some Things Are Meant to Be.”

The mother’s role is beautifully sung by Savina Barini, whose voice has matured into that of a nightingale. She expressively sings “Here Alone,” about the struggles of raising four girls alone while her husband—a doctor serves in the war and she displays her talents again in the heart-rending “Days of Plenty” as she explains to Jo how people don’t prepare for sadness but they learn to cope with it.

Louisa Waycott, who has performed with the Washington National Opera and other operas around the world since she starred on St. Thomas Playhouse stages, had to rewrite a few of the songs to accommodate women singing male roles.

“The music reminds me of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and a little Elton John,” she said. “For a young cast, a lot of the bigger songs are challenging.

 
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Wyatt Root, who plays the crochety Mr. Laurence, is won over by Beth March’s gentle spirit.
 

THE CAST

Elyse Duffield and Ida Belle Gorby portray the mature and younger Jo March, while Lizzie Loving, Langley Bier, Savina Barini and Lucy Lamoreux round out the March family.

Noah/Norah Davis-Jeffers portrays Jo’s suitor Laurie; Katie Gardiner, Aunt March; Wyatt Root, Mr. Laurence; Annika Petersen, Mr. Booke, and Eva Hatzenbuehler, Professor Bhaer.

Others are Clara Gvozdas, Charlie Blake, Phoebe Everett Williams, Steven Serva, Rick Vigueria and Marina Monschke.

The director is Sara Gorby; musical director, Louisa Waycott; choreographers, Sara Gorby and Melodie Taylor Mauldin; set designers, Sara Gorby and Cameron Rendahl; costume designer Annabel Webster; props, Sara Gorby and Rebecca Waycott; lighting designer and operator Gabe Delgado and Carter Hickey; sound, Brett Moellenberg; character coaching, Natalie Battistone and Kevin Wade, and dance captain, Clara Gvozdas.

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