Click here to read Dustin K. Britt’s review of the 2016 production.
After a well-received run last December, the Women’s Theatre Festival has decided to make a second go of adapting and staging Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which runs through December 3 at Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio. Like its first incarnation, the production employs a unique scheme: the serving of cakes and tea at the performance. Unlike last year’s clunky mid-show tea cart delivery, patrons can now choose their own treats from the lobby before showtime and at intermission.
Lighting, set design, and staging have all been tidied up since last year–thanks in part to Sonorous Road’s new performance space. Lorelei Lemon’s script has been tightened up greatly and the story bounces along at a pleasant clip with dynamic, interwoven scenes. The show runs just under 2 hours.
Katy Koop’s nimble direction and Sarah Koop’s efficient stage management keep transitions smooth, while Anthony Buckner’s beautiful lighting delineates settings while evoking a strong emotional response–the finest use of the new Sonorous Road’s lighting grid I have seen thus far. However, one side of the in-the-round audience is occasionally blinded and presented with the unlit sides of actors’ faces.
In-the-round audience seating–with antique couches and armchairs available–enhances immersion, but the zig-zag chair arrangement makes sightlines problematic at times.
Buckner’s bountiful electric candles provide a warm atmosphere and help ground us in the mid-nineteenth century as much as Elena Mulligan’s costumes or Ben Whitley’s set–with pieces borrowed from Raleigh’s Capital Bargain Barn. The clothing feels accurate and the quick-changes are impressive, but the overdressing makes some early costumes bulky and ill-fit. Sound designer Bronwen Mischel has selected unobtrusive musical pieces that help highlight the period and the tone.
The newly-assembled cast brings a great energy to the piece, which could become a costume drama. Lorelei Lemon’s rendering of Jo March–one of last year’s finest triangle performances–is a crisper one. Her 2017 Jo is a funnier, and less emotional–a welcome new take. This more Jo-centric adaptation did not hurt her chances for success.
Beth Somerville is an austere Meg March while Natalia Soto is a heartbreaking–but never pitiful–Beth. As Act Two’s older Amy March, Sierra Smith maintains the thread of childlike energy exuded by her younger self (played by Seanna Osborne and Miana White).
Sandra Wallace is dignified as matriarch Marmee and Jim O’Brien is a loving Mr. March. John Ivey is stately and reserved as family friend Mr. Laurence. Lu Meeks, though young for the role, is a humane–never villanous–Aunt March.
Nick Popio is a sensitive Teddy Laurence and he ably matches Lemon’s silliness while Matt Tucker’s John Brooke sweetly dotes on Meg March without becoming creepy.
A well-connected ensemble adds flavor to the street beggar scenes and high society sequences, with standout Natalie Cooper throwing scalding debutante shade as Sallie Moffat.
With a firmer script and more vibrant staging leading the way, this year’s Little Women is an upgrade in every way. A racially diverse cast is resulting in a racially diverse audience–something welcome in this area. More than any other local work, this show gives the young girls of the triangle an opportunity to see themselves portrayed–realistically and respectfully–on stage. Given this, WTF’s Little Women could become a welcome addition to the ever-growing triangle holiday theatre calendar. As Jo March would say, “sally forth!”
NOTE: This show is presented as a sensory-friendly event, adapted for those with sensory processing challenges. Adaptations include minimal blackouts, lower sound levels, various seating types, and access to showtime breaks as needed.
The Women’s Theatre Festival presents LITTLE WOMEN: A Holiday Performance and Tea at 8:00 p.m. Nov. 24-25, Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2 and 3:00 p.m. Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-3 in the The Royal Bakery Building at 3801 Hillsborough St., Suite 113, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $15 (children 17 and below); $25 (adults). Includes tea and cake.
BOX OFFICE: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3041623
INFORMATION: 919-803-3798 or email@example.com.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcPDHLFtrcQ
Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor and director. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.