Wholesome and pure are the words that come to mind when thinking of the Missouri Western theater department’s showing of “Little Women,” resulting in the audience feeling all the feels once the final song ends.
This showing of the musical was meant to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the play, and it delivered on a high note.
The best way to break this musical down is to dissect it piece by piece, starting with the overall performances of the cast. The MVP of the play in my respective opinion was Abby Wolff, who portrayed Amy March.
Wolff absolutely killed it with the child-like attitude Amy possesses, and as the play went on, her character matures. Wolff did a magnificent job in showing the character’s growth.
However, it wasn’t easy for Wolff. She sustained multiple injuries onstage during a number of shows. It’s weird to think someone could get hurt during a play, but it’s happened before. In “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” the actor playing the webhead fell off his harness and crashed into the stage.
While the play had to be stopped for that actor, Wolff took the words of the late Freddie Mercury to heart, as she knew the show must go on.
“I’m a very physical actor and have played a lot of physically demanding roles, which have led to some minor injuries on stage,” Wolff said. “However, I never expected “Little Women” to be the show I would have my scariest injuries.”
On opening night of the show, Wolff smacked her head against the back of a couch she plopped down on during one of her Amy-fits. Luckily for her, the padding in her hair softened the blow, and she continued on without skipping a beat.
Just this past friday, Wolff cut her eye when an ice skate her character was receiving hit her in the eye.
“The next weekend on our Friday night show during the same scene I hit my head before, the ice skate prop swung up and hit me in the eye,” Wolff said. “I exited, had three minutes to get my contact back in, and then went on stage for a scene where I got to cry a lot. It worked out well.”
I give Wolff mad props for her toughness. I’ve seen athletes — not at Western, don’t crucify me — complain about far less.
Adarius Wells was another standout. He played Laurie, who is smitten with our main protagonist Jo March. Wells feels this play has helped him grow as a person.
“It’s been an adventure to see myself grow in an area that I’m quite passionate about,” Wells said. “It’s a style of musical theatre not many people really see nowadays, and to put that product on the stage is life changing.”
Wells’ singing voice was outstanding as well. He brought a lot of natural charisma to the show.
As for the rest of the cast, I feel they did a remarkable job. Allyson Bryson played a great Jo March, as her fiery attitude was very believable. The rest of the March sisters were played by Kennedy Brock (Meg), Libby Denny (Beth), and of Wolff (Amy). Brock and Denny really shined in the moments given to them, whether it was singing or the emotion Denny brings to her scenes.
Julianna McCarroll played Marmeei, the mother of the March sisters, and good night, was I ever convinced she was playing an older woman. Her comedic sense of timing was immaculate as well. McCarroll had great chemistry with just about everybody, especially Wolff.
Benjamin Smith played Professor Bhaer, and I have to say, what a character arc he went through. From his opening line to his final line, Smith captured all the changes his character undergoes. The only negative I can say about Smith’s part in the play is Professor Bhaer didn’t have enough scenes in the play. Smith absolutely killed his solo song.
Ray Ettinger was a solid Mr. Lawrence, and also went through a big character arc. Ettinger has a natural presence when he is on stage, oozing confidence wherever he walks. It also helps his singing voice was just as dominating as his character.
The set pieces used as backdrops to the set were drawn and designed by Wolff, and did they ever look phenomenal. Wolff’s work was animated each time the setting changed, with the art moving and being colored in as the scene started. This was one of my favorite aspects of the entire show.
As for the musical acts, this crew killed it. The vocal range this cast possesses is truly amazing, as each song sounded great and nobody missing a key. The fact these actors can remember their lines plus the songs, as well as everything else truly baffles me in the most positive manner.
The live music done down in the pit in front of the stage really made me feel like I was in a musical with their wonderful play. Any musical needs good music — duh — and this group of musicians delivered in a grand way.
The only nitpicks I can make is just small things, such as hats falling off the actors and the music being a little too loud in some select parts. I believe the sound problem could easily be fixed by setting the gain level of the actor’s mics to a higher threshold than the volume output of the instruments.
“Little Women” made me feel relaxed, laugh, and emote in both happy and saddening ways. This is exactly what you want any type of entertainment to make you do, and this play succeeds at that. I can’t wait to see the Western theater department’s next show, barring no one gets injured along the way.