Little Women is a quaint tale about following our dreams

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Little Women | Bring On Tomorrow Co. | presented with Kay Meek Centre and Creber Music | Grosvenor Theatre at Kay Meek Centre | December 27 – 30, 2017

This musical is hard to relate to. It wasn’t just the old-fashioned costumes and quaint farm house in 1860s Massachusetts that felt far-removed from our own context, but the content as well. While on the surface, this story by Louisa May Alcott may seem like a feminist tale of striking out on one’s own and following our dreams, it inevitably ends in marriage.

Miss Jo March (Michelle Creber), one of the four March sisters, is a strong-headed writer who dreams of being a famous novelist, loves to exclaim “Christopher Columbus!” and declares often that she will never marry. Despite this, the neighbour’s grandson, Laurie (William Tippery), proposes to her. It’s obvious that the two are close friends and could make good companions, but Jo is adamant that she doesn’t want to get married. Creber’s performance of Jo March reminded me of Anne of Green Gables, with her melodramatic recitations of literature, big dreams, and disdain for personal romance and societal expectations.  

Jo’s Aunt March (Colleen Winton) stood out as the most authentic, engaging performance. Her haughty attitude and lecture to Jo about how we earn our dreams led to the show’s best musical number: “Could You?” in which Aunt March questions Jo’s ability to change her tomboy habits and become a “lady.” While Aunt March is a strong-willed independent female figure, her ideas about femininity are not exactly progressive. The March girls’ mother, Marmee (Monique Creber) is a flat character who seems to have no strong opinions and lets her girls take charge.  

Laurie’s grandfather, Mr. Laurence (Stephen Aberle), seems like an old curmudgeon, but he takes a shine to Jo’s sister, Beth (Jennifer Gillis). As he compliments her on her piano playing and they sing together, it almost seemed like Mr. Laurence was coming on to Beth, but I’m not sure if that was intentional as a few scenes later he was back to being a kind grandfather figure.

The March sisters’ home life in Concord, Massachusetts is intercut with scenes of Jo’s life in New York City as she tries to get published. She receives countless rejection letters telling her to return home to have children. In New York, she meets Professor Bhaer (Erik Gow) who ends up falling her and follows her home when she returns to nurse a very ill Beth. While home, Jo learns that Laurie and her sister pretentious sister Amy (Julia MacLean) are to be married, but has little reaction to this news. Her relationship with the Professor is presented as tender but underdeveloped, and their engagement feels a bit forced. The second half of the show dragged towards the conclusion

Although she ends up marrying, she isn’t letting go of her dreams of being published. The marriage comes with a publication contract for her novel about the March sisters that the Professor managed to arrange for her. This seems a decidedly un-feminist ending with her husband taking matters into his own hands, but he means well and it’s clear that their partnership will be equitable. As Jo says triumphantly, “I may be small, but I’ve got giant plans.” 

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn