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The Glove Theatre
42 North Main St.
Gloversville, NY 12078
518-773-8255


Reviews

Little Women

By MELINA J. IACOVONE It is never an easy task to adapt a well-loved, classic novel into a stage production, let alone a musical. However, the stage adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic "Little Women" is as uplifting and inspiring as the book. The play brings to life the four March Sisters: the maternal eldest sister, Meg; Beth, the kind, ever-pleasing sister; Amy, the precocious youngest and Josephine, or "Jo" as she's called, is the headstrong, determined sister and the protagonist of the story. Bringing these characters to life is a challenging task for any actor, especially knowing that so many people in the audience will already have personal, preconceived ideas of how these characters look, speak, interact and tell the story. The Glove Performing Arts Center cast of "Little Women" took on the challenge and brought the story to life with passion. The story is told during the Civil War era and focuses on the lives of the four March sisters and their mother. Their father is off at war and they are left on their own to cope with the day-to-day life of being in a small Massachusetts town. The story centers on Jo, the feisty tomboy and aspiring writer, who wants only to travel the world and break all the rules for women in society. Former Gloversville High School and Glove Theater stage actress Amanda Peterson portrays Jo with the strength and verve that makes the character so enduring to young women who know Jo from the book. Amanda also brings a vulnerability to the character, which she keeps hidden until she sits in her attic flat reflecting on her life ("Better"), showing an even softer more unsure side, but always coming back into her power with each lesson learned. The play starts in a boarding house where Jo is a resident. We are introduced to her character with a musical journey through one of Jo's dramatic short stories as told to German Professor Bhaer (Marc Andrzejewski). Here, Amanda's acting range is challenged immediately with the opening number, "An Operatic Tragedy," which has her narrating a story while it is being acted out behind her; she echoes the movements and sings the lyrics along with the characters from her story ("Braxton" as played by Will Eagan, who also portrays John Brooke; "Clarissa" played by Devan Rowe, who does double duty as Meg; and "Rodrigo" played by Michael Johnson, who also takes on the role of Laurie). The number is energetic and engaging and sets the pace for the remainder of act one. Jo returns to her sisters and it is among the group where the individual personalities of each sister are introduced and sets the tone for the remainder of the story. Devin Rowe (Meg), GHS and FMCC theater alum, has a commanding presence on stage. Rowe must be a strong leader as the eldest sister, but she also is quite unsure of herself, especially in social situations. Rowe is able to bring in the strength of an older sister, but the shyness of a woman who has never danced with a man. Rowe demonstrates the wonderful ability to start slow and build the character to a high point, such as starting a song unsure in the beginning, but emerging victorious by the end through singing and dancing. This range can be seen in the number called "I'd be Delighted" where her mother and sisters are teaching her the etiquette of accepting a boy's invitation to dance. Alaina Peterson as Beth is breezy and ultra-feminine and is the peace keeper among the sisters. Alaina also is a GHS stage veteran and the many years of experience has paid off in her performance as Beth. She possesses that genuine sweetness that shapes the character and brings her to life with the grace and elegance intended by Alcott in her novel. Alaina"s two standout moments are a duet she sings with the gruff and intimidating Mr. Laurence (GHS theater alum Michael Cannon) called "Off to Massachusetts" and the poignant and very touching duet she sings with Jo (real-life sister Amanda) on "Some Things are Meant to be" in the second act. The youngest sister, Amy, is played by Heather Lynne Johnson. Heather plays the role of the slightly spoiled and slightly pretentious in stark contrast to Beth and in direct conflict with Jo to add diversity and texture to the group of sisters. Johnson carries through rounding out the group with her ability to act with and off the other sisters, forming the variance needed to strike a balance. Courtney Lehan is Marmee, the girls' mother. Another stage veteran from GHS, Lehan brings a strong maternal feel to the role of Marmee and executes it with grace. She truly delivers a more "motherly" feel onstage among the sisters, and with that commands respect. Her soulful rendition of "Days of Plenty" in the second act is a heartbreaking song for a mother to sing, and she delivers it with a profound beauty that definitely tugs at the heartstrings. As noted, with a familiar story like "Little Women" the characters are like old friends to some of us, so delivering on that note is crucial to bring the story to life. Michael Johnson (GHS alum) plays the would-be love interest of Jo. Johnson and Amanda Peterson have worked together before and it was an excellent opportunity to put the two together again in this play to see the familiarity in the connection between them. The spark onstage between these two actors was very real, and their shared scenes come off effortlessly and very natural, a testament to the comfort they feel with each other and their shared experience. Autumn Carey (GHS alum, SUNY Potsdam student) has continued her acting from her high school career and is excellent as Aunt March, the girls' sparkplug-like aunt who points out to Jo in "Could You?" why it is so important to be a lady and " more importantly " how to be a lady. She takes command of the role of Aunt March and clearly conveys that strength, maturity and crustiness to the audience, which is delightful to experience. In addition to the wonderful acting in this production of "Little Women" are the spectacular costumes. The period-specific clothing is very much a character in the play and costume coordinator Mary Cassaro and designer Judy Visconti created a realistic Civil War appeal with the ladies' dresses and the gentlemen's topcoats. The costumes enhance the lovely set featuring period piece furniture, thanks to the set designing crew, and all is beautifully lit and enhanced by the technical crew. A veteran stage actor himself, director Michael S. Burnett has once again transformed a troop of young actors into the very characters that we readers of "Little Women" have come to love and with whom many young women identify. His precision and attention to detail can be seen in every movement, every motion and every trail of the spotlight and with every note played by the accompanying orchestra (lead skillfully by music director Ann Popp-Trojan.) From a personal perspective, I was thrilled to see this talented bunch of actors regroup for this production. I have had the pleasure of watching them blossom from bit parts as freshmen at GHS to conquering leading roles in their senior year. I was sad when they graduated thinking that I may never see the ensemble again, so thank you to Mr. Burnett and the Glove Performing Arts Center for giving me (and everyone else) the opportunity to see this brilliant cast of actors again in "Little Women." I highly recommend this family-friendly, entertaining musical. See "Little Women" at the Glove Performing Arts Center in Gloversville on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Aug. 20, 21 and 22.

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