REVIEW: Novel Staging Works in CCM’s ‘Little Women’

A musical staged in a bookstore? It sounds like a preposterous notion; however, the space works quite well for an intimate evening of musical theater.

by Alan Jozwiak

Little Women has been a fan favorite since it was published in 1868. Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age novel of the four March sisters has been adapted into numerous movies, television shows, and a musical–which CCM Musical Theatre is putting on stage this week.

Novel Location

The CCM version of Little Women is a bare-bones production that could have played in the Cohen Family Studio Theater.  However, this production is going off campus and is staged in Household Books (2533 Gilbert Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45206).

A musical staged in a bookstore?  It sounds like a preposterous notion; however, the space works quite well for an intimate evening of musical theater.  The stage is configured as a theatre-in-the-round with chairs surrounding a central playing space.  Kudos for the two-person orchestra (the incomparable Julie Spangler on piano and CCM student Kerrigan Mandrell on violin) since they play all the music for this 2 hour and 45-minute musical. No mean feat.

Strong Direction

Director Vincent DeGeorge makes the most of the bookstore ambiance by allowing his production to highlight his talented cast and minimize any pretense of set.  Particularly effecting is the staging when all of the actors enter carrying copies of the novel Little Women which they continue to read when they are off-stage. This unexpected opening to the musical is most memorable.

CCM's Little Women at Household Books.
CCM’s Little Women at Household Books.

CCM’s Little Women is Double Cast

There are two casts for this production. I will be taking about the May Alcott cast, which performs on February 21, February 23, and February 25.  Chief among the performers is Tomi Newman as Jo March, the feisty March sister who has a heart of gold.  Newman perfectly embodies the verve and spirit of Jo and is able to deliver high powered energy whenever onstage.   Newman also delivers some amazingly great solo numbers, such as “Astonishing” and “The Fire Within Me.” In short, Newman just does an outstanding job within this role.

All of the performers in the May Alcott cast have amazing moments on stage when they truly explore emotional depths of their characters and/or sing beautifully.  Instead of focusing on one or two actors, I’ll list an amazing moment from them within the show. They’ll be listed in their order of their appearance:

Professor Bhaer (Stanislav Przedlacki) has a beautiful scene with Jo at the end of Act II which leads to the couple’s first kiss (the song “The Fire Within Me”)

Amy March (Makayla Shipe) delivers a powerful performance after she interferes with Jo’s writing. There is a real sense of authenticity to the scene.  Truly wonderful acting.

Meg March (Eliza Levy) has some of her most memorable scenes falling in love with Mr. John Brook (Nate Jones). The two have a beautiful chemistry on stage and sing well together in songs like “More Than I Am.”

Beth March (Lucy Alo Acuna) shines bright within her scenes with the grumpy Mr. Laurence (Declan Smith), especially as they sing the song “Off to Massachusetts.”

Laurie (Ry Dever) knows how to milk the humor out of a situation and there are several big laughs. He also sings beautifully in “Take a Chance on Me” and “The Most Amazing Thing.”

Marmee (Peyton Kern) delivers some amazingly strong songs with her solo numbers “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty.”

Finally, Aunt March’s (Hannah Ervin) commanding presence provides some gravitas and seriousness to the highly spirits of the March sisters. 

CCM's Little Women at Household Books.
CCM’s Little Women at Household Books.

I Recommend CCM’s Little Women

In short, Little Women is a strong show, well set in the bookstore. It is a delight to watch and I would recommend seeing it.

Because Household Books is smaller than the other venues at CCM, there are a limited number of tickets.  Little Women runs from Wednesday, February 21 to Sunday, February 25, 2024. Click here for ticket information. I recommend calling (513) 556-4183 for ticket availability in case of cancellations

A new Calendar for everything onstage from LCT’s member theatres.

Related Posts