note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
Mansfield Music and Arts Society's current show is the musical version of "Little Woman" based on the Louisa May Alcott's 19th century novel is a tale of four sisters growing into women, set in 1864. "Little Women" is the beloved story of Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March as they grow up in Civil War America. While their father is away fighting Confederates the girls must deal with romance, illness and burgeoning independence. It is a timeless classic and the issues raised in this musical are still relevant today. Based on Alcott's life, in the play, Jo March is determined to be a famous writer with her passion and spirit of adventure in order to support her family. It's the tale of an admirable Victorian-era girl finding her place as a woman in the world while trying to be an aspiring writer. We follow their exploits during their childhood adventures and watch them mature into little women. They wait for letters from their father on the battlefield, perform with their mother in dramatic presentations and finally yearn to love each other as adults by forming mature relationships with each other and their respective suitors. Director Meg Quin-Dussault casts each of these role excellently and obtains brilliant performances from her whole cast. Musical director Shannon Manley taught the lovely score to her talented cast. They combined expertise wins them a resounding standing ovation at the close of the show.
Meg brings out the best in her 10 member cast and this show is no exception. She mixes the comic and dramatic moments together splendidly. Jessica DePalo as Jo, wins over the audience in this role. She displays her voice in "Better" when she thinks her writing was better back in Concord than in New York, the show stopping "Astonishing" which closes the first act with power and punch and "The Fire Within" where after Beth's death, Jo finds the courage to write about her beloved family in "Little Women" and she becomes an author at last. The appearance of her three sisters behind her during this song, makes it a tender moment in the show. A fun filled moment is "Delighted" which is reminiscent of "Shall We Dance", complete with Marmee, Meg, Jo and Beth doing a polka during it. Tammy Mulroney plays the oldest sister Meg perfectly. She falls in love with John Brooke who is their neighbor, Laurie's tutor. Tammy has a powerful soprano voice which is heard throughout the show and performs a duet with her future husband, John Brooke called "More Than I Am."
Gorgeous brunette, Sandy Clancy is fabulous as Beth. She has two numbers including "Off to Massachusetts" where she wins over their mean neighbor, Mr. Laurence with her piano playing. Sandy also has a very poignant song with Jo called "Some Things Are Meant to Be" where they vacation together on Cape Cod before Beth's tragic death from Scarlet Fever. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as Jessica and Sandy sang it. The youngest sister Amy is a spoiled brat who burns Jo's manuscript, falls in love with the boy next door and becomes the pride and joy of their Aunt March. Agatha Babbitt plays this spoiled brat to the hilt as well as when she returns as a perfect young lady in the second act. Amy and Laurie confess their engagement to Jo in their "The Most Amazing Thing" number. Laura Rotondo Canfield is dynamite as Marmee and commands the stage in this role. Her first song is "Here Alone" when she sings about missing her husband who is fighting in the Civil war. Her second number comes as comforts Jo after Beth's death in "Days of Plenty" which tugs at your heartstrings. She explains that they mustn't be defeated by Beth's death and must move on with life. Laura brings the warmth and maturity this role calls for.
Katherine Joy is a joy as she plays the snooty, rich Aunt March who wants Jo to become a refined lady. Her lovely voice is heard in "Could You?" where she lays down the rules of etiquette for Jo to follow if she wants to accompany her to Europe which Amy eventually does. She usually plays nice characters but this role is one that she can sink her teeth and play a backbiting bitch. Katherine is also a hoot as Jo's Irish landlady in New York. Rounding out this ten member cast are Anthony Rinaldi plays Laurie who is smitten with Jo and then ends up marrying Amy, Kevin Hayes as John who enlists in the Union Army and marries Meg, Greg Smith as Professor Bhaer who ends up marrying Jo even though they are opposites in everything they do and Fred Armstrong as the mean Mr. Laurence who gets won over by the sickly Beth. So for a trip back to the 19th century and a return to the classic novel of Louisa May Alcott, be sure to catch the musical version of "Little Women" at MMAS. Tell them Tony sent you. A word of praise to Brian William Kenerson for the gorgeous 19th century costumes especially Aunt March's hoop skirts.