Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Faulkner: Little Women"

Faulkner University's sweet production of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, in a musical version of her beloved 1869 novel, preserves the spirit of the original source. One of America's most treasured stories -- a paean to the strengths of women -- Little Women celebrates family, romantic love, and perseverance.

Set mainly in Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War, the March family women -- Marmee & her four daughters -- must get on with their lives while Mr. March is away as an Army Chaplain.

The central character is Jo [Kristi Humphreys], a tomboy and independent minded aspiring writer who narrates their story from a boarding house in New York where she has met Professor Baher (sp) [Jason Morgan], a man whose honest opinions of her writing she trusts.

Instead of writing old-fashioned melodramas -- "blood-and-guts" stories, she calls them -- he encourages her to write what she knows best and from her heart, and though it takes her a while to find, her strength is to write about the family that truly inspires her.

And what a family it is: Meg [Mara Woddail], the family beauty and sensible one; Amy [Brittney Johnston], the impatient one who measures success by material things; Beth [Emily Cozart], the gentle one who dies of Scarlet Fever, and Marmee [Angela Dickson] the rock who holds their world together.

Into their lives come Aunt March [Abby Roberts], their wealthy relative; Mr. Laurence [Tony Davidson substituting at the last minute due to illness for Allen Young on the night I saw it], their rich next-door neighbor and later benefactor; and grandfather to Laurie [Chase McMichen], and Laurie's friend Mr. Brooke [Michael Williams], who provide the love interest for two of the little women.

The plot is carried in part by several songs that invoke a gentler time while reinforcing its values and indicating a future for women to take their rightful place in the world. -- Music continues to be Faulkner's strong suit, as they feature musical plays frequently. In Little Women, director Jason Clark South is fortunate in having a cast who uniformly have strong solo voices and the acting skills that clearly tell the story and develop characters & relationships, making them come alive so we care about them.

Unfortunately, the sound system continues to be a problem, making the actors' voices and Randy Foster's virtuostic piano accompaniment incredibly loud, distorting spoken words and sung lyrics deafening and often incomprehensible...no fault to the talented cast.

Nonetheless, the ensemble performances, especially Ms. Humphreys' depiction of Jo, are complex, distinct, and admirably astute in interpreting song lyrics.