IF YOU GO
What: "Little Women: The Musical"
Where: TheatreZone, 13275 Livingston Road, in the G&L Theater Building at the Community School of Naples
When: Today, Thursday, March 8 to Sunday, March 18
Tickets: $43 — $48 plus a $2 per ticket fee
To buy: theatrezone-florida.com or call 888-966-3352
NAPLES — Since 1868 mothers and their daughters have bonded over the timeless classic, Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." Now, fans can see its natural progression: as a musical.
'Little Women: The Broadway Musical' opens today at TheatreZone in Naples and plays through March 18. Director Mark Danni is excited for audiences what good music can bring to the show.
"I think while 'Little Women' is a classic novel that has been around for a long time, this musical adaptation was just done in 2006 on Broadway and has a modern theatrical score," Danni says of the music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. "It has beautiful songs with a very fresh current Broadway score that's very powerful, and the songs help further the character development."
Even though the story is "Little Women," and is seen through the eyes of one woman, men in this story play a significant role.
"It really is for everyone of all ages and a wonderful family show also because it reinforces family. You will walk out of the theater hugging your children and being grateful you have them," he says.
"Kids will also identify with it in the jealousy of a sister and the antics that the mother has to deal with — and even though it's set in the 1860s civil war era, those issues are still relevant today."
The main crux of the story, as Danni describes it, as the ambition of one young woman in a time when women weren't supposed to have that characteristic. Other elements include forging the ties that bind us as families and surviving while their father, a chaplain, is away during wartime.
Danni's wife, Karen Molnar, choreographed the show, and Tony-award winner Donna McKechnie for the foundation role as Mrs. March, "Marmee" to her brood. This is not the first time McKechnie has appeared for TheatreZone; she starred in TheatreZone's 2008 production of "Stepping Out."
"Playing Marmee, I love the core material," she says. "The writing always comes first for me. IIt's wonderful when in the story you're telling the music elevates it to that emotional place."
"Even now — because the values brought out are relevant still today and the girls are growing up into the passage of adulthood — Marmee's challenge is doing this on her own because her husband is away as a chaplain in the war," she says. "I spend all day making my actor choices for it and exploring it which is what I love about ensemble work."
"The other great challenge in a role like this is the time frame in that you just involve yourself immediately," McKechnie says of the short rehearsal schedule. "These days, even in a Broadway show now, the rehearsal time is cut down, but the way I was raised was very different."
The sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are played by four veteran actors — Molly Ann Ross as Amy, Megan Yelaney as Jo, Megan Jimenez as Meg and Julie Woods-Robinson embodies delicate Beth.
Some of the actors see similarities in the relationships between the sisters in their own lives. Megan Yelaney has two older sisters, one is 42 and the other is 40.
"I am very close to my sisters and have a very strong relationship with them, so this play really highlights how special a sister-sister relationship is ... Sisters may fight, like Amy and Jo, but in the end, they are the best of friends, and there is no other bond like it," says Yelaney.
"You would die for your sister, and feel her pain when she has pain and joy when she has joy, so Jo and Beth's relationship highlights this especially."
Yelaney feels performing in "Little Women: The Broadway Musical" is a once in a lifetime opportunity and that her character, Jo, exemplifies a coming-of-age story at its best developed.
"She is so innocent and naive in the beginning, thinking that she and her sisters really will never leave each other, and her journey to New York and finding love is truly beautiful," she says.
"Memories of running down the street and knocking on my neighbors' doors came flooding back with all those days of making our neighborhood into one big backyard and finding adventures to keep us occupied all day," says Woods-Robinson. " 'Little Women' explores the joy of all that and also the bittersweetness of leaving it behind as we grow up into adult women with individual lives — which are beautiful in new ways, of course."
Woods-Robinson says she has always loved the character of Beth and she's delighted to play her.
"Her sweetness and generosity and uncompromising love for everyone around her is a model we can all look to in our own lives, and I hope I do her justice," says Woods-Robinson, who has favorites among its melodies already, songs such as "Five Forever", "Astonishing" and "Days of Plenty."
"The song 'Some Things Are Meant to Be" never fails to move me to tears," she adds.