Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts: “Little Women”

After dinner, the three of us proceeded to John L. Haar Theatre for Grant MacEwan’s production of Little Women. From the website:

“Set in New England during the Civil War, Little Women follows the adventures of four sisters – Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March – as they grow up. After their father leaves for battle and under their mother’s guidance, the girls must rely on each other for strength in the face of tragedies both large and small. The story will captivate audiences of all ages while telling of the sisters’ progress into womanhood with the added strains of the romance, illness, the pressures of marriage and the outside world.”

The success of this musical wholly depended on a charismatic and talented Jo, and here, the casting was pitch-perfect. Alissa Keogh had a believable headstrong, tomboyish charm, and vocal abilities that put her stage mates to shame. I mean the following as nothing but a compliment: her voice is made for the wholesome songs of the Disney canon, and I have no doubt she has a bright future ahead of her.

As for the rest of the cast, the choice of Yemie Sonuga of African descent was an inspired choice for Marmee (with the backdrop of the American Civil War), but it was a shame that her acting was uneven and forced. Jaclyn Nestman as Beth and Kristy Neufeld as Meg were quite good in their roles, however, and Matthew Van Boeyen did his best to play with dignity a man at least thirty years his senior.

As for the rest of the production, I have an admitted difficulty avoiding obvious comparisons with other adaptations, and in this case, it would be with the 1994 Winona Ryder film. While the play’s Amy was able to redeem herself, and win over the audience (unlike in the movie), I sorely wished for the impossible appearance of a young Christian Bale to reprise his role as Laurie. As in the movie, I still find Jo’s “hasty” marriage to Professor Bhaer an unbelievable, unsatisfying ending. Though Jo’s happiness in finding a connection with someone literary, who challenged her and supported her work as an author is understandable, I can’t believe this happy ending would come so quickly.

For a student production, Little Women was quite good, and it was a treat to watch Alissa Keogh perform, undoubtedly a star in the making.