Written in 1868, the novel Little Women has sold nearly 2 million copies, been translated into 50 languages, and been adapted in the form of multiple films, a ballet, an anime, a musical produced on Broadway in 2005. And from Thursday, Feb. 11 – Sunday, Feb. 21, the theatrical version of Little Women will be presented at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., in Spring Hill.
“A story that never will grow old for its treatment of a mother’s love for her children and their appreciation,” reads a play description found on the production’s Stage West Facebook page. “The story follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and details their passage from childhood to womanhood, during the Civil War and the following years.”
Written by John Ravold and based on the novel by Louisa M. Alcott, the play Little Women brings to life what has been called “one of the best-loved books of all time.” And in the hands of Stage West director Dr. Martha Velez, this version of Little Women is a highly personal production.
“As a student in Junior High School, I always identified with Jo and her desire to capture the imagination of the world around her,” she said referencing the strong, independent central character. Velez now considers it an honor to bring Little Women to Stage West.
“It was a selection made by the Artistic Director of Stage West and the Play Selection committee,” she said. “I was the lucky one invited to direct this wonderful piece of such great historic worth and literary value.”
Velez feels that, with its presiding themes of women’s independence and overriding strength, Little Women is a particularly relevant production for these times. “The ambitions of the March sisters, especially Jo and Amy, are analogs to the desires and achievements of women in our modern-day,” she explained. “That is to say, their desire to reach farther than their socially assigned roles, is a manifestation, way ahead of their era. Jo ultimately succeeds as a writer, an imprint of the author, Louisa May Alcott. Amy gets to travel to France to study painting, a privilege not afforded many women in the 1800s. Their dreams were as far-reaching as any women today. Their access to achievement was minimized by the restraints of their era.”
This era also is depicted in the historical sets and costumes featured in this production, which offers a fresh approach to the casting of Little Women.
“I think every director, tackling this material, brings a bit of their own time and resonance into the story, whether it is by energy, mise en scene, or their own stamp/style. One thing I wanted to do, as Director, was to cast truly, age-appropriate actors, for the roles, which have not historically been the case, throughout depictions. Think of Katharine Hepburn playing Jo, a 16-year-old, when Hepburn was in her 20’s. To that end, we have cast a terrifically, talented, and vital group of teen girls who have embodied Louisa May Alcott’s young ladies from the 1800s, with vigor and dedication,” said Velez. “They are Brooke Culp as Jo, Shawna Hopper as Amy, Katherine Hines as Beth, and Kaitlyn Merendino as Meg. Their male counterparts are played by Robert Kordon as Laurie, Mitchell Mathias as Brooke. The adult characters are portrayed by veteran actors of multiple productions, in the area, and beyond. These actors are Allen Magnus as Father, Angela Sarabia as Marmee, Lynda Dilts-Benson as Aunt March, and Jon Thomas as Prof. Bhaer. It’s a marvelous cast. I am very proud and grateful to see them all blossom in these roles.”
Also fresh is the cast’s approach to its source material, which more than 20 times has been adapted to big and small screens from 1917 to 2019; with movie adaptations starring screen luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn. The most recent adaptation starred Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, and Timothee Chalamet as Laurie.
“There exists a genuine literary respect for the different manifestations of this classic among the cast and crew. Still, there is the pressure of mounting and performing the soul of such a well-known classic, and, about which so many in the audience, have a preconceived notion,” said Velez. “We are moving forward with this project with fresh, exuberant energy and joy!”
Furthermore, this production of Little Women is being produced with health and safety in mind. The show will be performed before a large main stage theatre that will be filled to 50 percent capacity, with cleaning measures and masking in place and sanitizer available.
“We are social distancing, wearing masks, staying safe, and striving to keep theatre alive,” said Velez. In bringing Little Women to Stage West, Velez also helps to bring a valuable life message to its audience.
“(What I would like audiences to take away from Little Women is) that life is a footprint. We keep moving and advancing from the same outline, love, conflict, beauty, social perception. LITTLE WOMEN, written in the 1800s about a young family, challenged by the Civil War, the pandemic of Scarlet Fever, economic crisis, coming of age love stories, and the adjustment to loss of social status. So many of these human conditions are analogous to the social experience within our country and the challenges, we face, at present,” she said. “Act 2 is a joyous expression of a family overcoming obstacles. In this, the universal message of hope and survival are heralded in Little Women.”
Call (352) 683-5113 or visit https://stagewestflorida.com/buy-tickets/ to buy tickets for Little Women at Stage West Playhouse, Feb. 11,12,13,14 and 19,20,21.
“Come and see this beautiful production!” said Velez.