The self-discovery of four sisters in the musical ‘Little Women’ at Capital One Hall

By Teniola Ayoola

Little Women: The Broadway Musical in Capital One Hall, directed by Jeffrey B. Moss (and with music by Jason Howland, book by Allan Knee and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein), reminds us that success and fulfillment in life can take different paths, and it’s up to each of us must find and carve our own path. ‘Your fate is in your hands’ is the sentence that summarizes the journey of the main characters and resonates long after leaving the theater.

Scene from the 2024 “Little Women” national tour. Photo by Josh Murphy/Chosen Creations.

The production is based on Louisa May Alcott’s timeless 1868 novel and intricately interweaves themes of triumph, self-discovery, family bonds and the pursuit of dreams. It follows the journey of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – as they mature and each face their share of growing pains. Meg, who initially struggles to accept a dance invitation, eventually receives a marriage proposal and threatens to break up. Beth, the angel who sees the best in every situation, must accept her fate and the shortness of life. Amy, the youngest and most entitled, aspires to enter society and enjoy the finer things in life. Jo, the main character, must find a way to achieve success through an unconventional route for a woman of her time. While their father serves as a chaplain for the Union army during the Civil War, they befriend their neighbor Laurie and occasionally enjoy Aunt March’s company.

In Act I, Jo March, played exuberantly and lively by Hannah Taylor, announces to her sisters in Concord, Massachusetts, “I’ve decided to become a world-famous writer!” In the 1860s, a lady with such dreams usually had only one hope for success: trusting a man. Her Aunt March, amusingly played by Moriel Behar, who doubles as boarding school owner Mrs. Kirk, reminds Jo in the song “Could You” that she must master feminine wiles to secure a good marriage and thereby “power” to acquire. in society. “You could never bend your will… Could you possibly be shy? Can you wear a corset tight in the heat of mid-July?… these are things a girl has to do when she has dreams to fulfill,” Aunt March sings educationally. At first, Jo promises to ‘change’, as Aunt March advises. However, the changes she undergoes over the course of the play lead her towards her true self rather than away from it.

Jo’s first change is to admit that she doesn’t conform: ‘To hell with society! We do not live for society; we live for what is inside us!” At this crucial moment, she realizes that she must find a way to be “amazing” without the support of her aunt or the crutch of marriage. When told that the subject of an opportunity was closed, she replies, “The subject is not closed, and if it is, I’ll reopen it!” As a defiant and passionate Jo, Taylor proclaims that she will achieve her dreams no matter what. And she does. When 22 publishers close their doors to her, she doubles down and breaks down the next one: “So I picked up a story to sell and got ready to raise hell…. then he ordered four more, now I write for The Weekly Volcano Press.” Jo, who initially refused marriage, becomes open to it after finding success as a writer. In “Small Umbrella in the Rain,” sung with Professor Bhaer (played by Mychal Leverage), she negotiates the terms of their union: “I won’t be sweet, won’t be demure…. I will give my opinion, you can be sure of that.’ Bhaer is fine with it because, unlike Aunt March, it’s Jo’s world, and everyone else just lives in it.

Jo’s other sisters also go their separate ways as the play progresses. Noa Harris plays the youngest sister, Amy March, and does an exceptional job portraying an entitled brat. In Act I, angry that Jo does not hand over her ticket to the ball, she throws Jo’s writing into the fire and immediately performs her own dance of joy, pulling up her dress and prancing smugly across the stage in joy at her evil deed of retaliation. . Harris’s acting is so convincing that when she later faces the consequences of her actions, she evokes pity by exclaiming, “My time will never come!” I will always be forgotten and be the last. I just want something that’s mine.” Anyone who has ever felt degraded, left behind, and unseen will undeniably sympathize with Amy’s childish but valid emotions. However, things take an unexpectedly big turn for Amy when she receives an invitation to travel to Europe and fulfill her dreams of greater things. In Act II, Amy not only returns from Europe as a fiancée, but, thanks to talented costume coordinator Janine Loesch, looks elevated and dazzling in a multicolored patterned dress with gold trim. Even Theodore Laurence III, “Laurie,” played by Aathaven Tharmarajah, looks upgraded and grown-up in his blue suit.

Beth, played with quiet grace by Camryn Hamm, finds solace in her music and forms a moving bond with Mr. Laurence, first played with a “hard face” and later with warmth by Chris Carsten. Hamm’s performance reflects Beth’s kind spirit and profound resilience, especially during her final moments with Jo in the deeply moving song “Some Things Are Meant to Be.” She sings beautifully: ‘All my life I lived because I loved you. Now let me go.”

Meg March, played by Rachel Pantaazis, has a beautiful and fast-paced romance with Laurie’s mentor, Mr. John Brooks (played by Tristan Caldwell). There’s not much to note here, as most of it develops offstage.

Aaron Bower delivers a standout performance as Marmee March, imbuing the character with quiet strength and unwavering determination amid the turmoil of the Civil War. Bower’s performance, dressed in black for almost the entire piece, captures Marmee’s poignant solos, reflecting on the challenges of raising her daughters alone. Later in Act II, Bower passionately sings “Days of Plenty.” She refuses to lose two daughters (one to scarlet fever and the other to grief) and sings to Jo with such emotional passion that her voice and body tremble: “You can’t let this beat you. I won’t let this beat you! You have to fight.”

Scene from the 2024 “Little Women” national tour. Photo by Josh Murphy/Chosen Creations.

Lighting designer Charlie Morrison and sound designers Anthony Lopez and Chase Nichter all do fantastic work. Apart from minor quibbles with Meg’s microphone, the sound effects, orchestra and stage lighting for each score, including Jo’s operatic tragedy, are loud, on point, engaging and draw you into the action taking place in the background as the piece itself takes place. on the front.

Randel Wright’s opulent yet minimalist set design provides a visually striking backdrop for the production: a structure of gold relief carving similar in style to ancient Corinthian architectural capitals with five circles running through them. However, despite its beauty, it detracts from the immersive experience by putting the most important settings in the background. For example, the family’s living room with the piano and fireplace and Jo’s attic are all in the background (behind the structure), while the characters do most of the acting in the foreground (in front of the structure). If they are outside the house, we get a projection of a house facade over the relief structure itself. The musical could be better expanded with a more intimate and immersive set design, allowing for a deeper connection with the characters and their journey.

Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including a 15-minute intermission.

Little women played May 17-19, 2024 at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA.

The program for Little women is online here. The national tour website is here.

Teniola Ayoola is an art and culture lover. In her spare time you can find her in an art gallery, an art museum or at the theater. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. She has had the opportunity to work at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), intern at the Shakespeare Theater Company, and receive mentorship as a White House Correspondents Association Scholar. She recently graduated with her master’s degree in Management from Harvard University and is now part of the ‘Theater U’ program for art critics at DC Theater Arts. Follow her on X @TopTeniola!

Broadway at Tysons returns to Capital One Hall for the 2024/25 season (news item, April 25, 2024)