March 26, 2013

Teen critic Williams on ‘Little Women’: Impressive

Teen critic Williams of Charlotte Christian reviews ‘Little Women’ by Carolina Youth Players.

Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here .) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:

Carolina Youth Players brings Louisa May Alcott’s cherished book to life with their production of “Little Women” at 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 7.

This story guides the audience through the lives of four sisters who support each other through times of both great joy and immense sorrow.

This show has many qualities that one may find “astonishing,” one being the talent of the four March sisters, the “Little Women” themselves: Anna Katherine Rape (Jo), Rachel Tabor (Meg), Elizabeth Mathis (Beth) and Savannah Anne Carman (Amy).

Tabor manages to capture Meg’s mature and gentle nature perfectly, which serves as a perfect contrast to Carman’s spoiled and snobby portrayal of Amy, and Mathis’ final note in the tear-jerking ballad “Some Things are Meant to Be” was proceeded by a chorus of sniffing as few were left with dry eyes.

However, while Rape’s acting and vocal range were all very impressive, she deserves double commencement just for her understanding and interpretation of Jo alone. Jo March is a feat of a character, who masks intolerable grief and nostalgia under a facade of determination and boldness, which gives any actress playing her the difficult task of blending just the right amount of confidence and vulnerability. Rape understands both sides of Jo perfectly, and makes playing such a complex girl look easy.

Sophia Odiorne captures Marmee’s gentle and quiet spirit well, and is arguably the most believable “adult” in the show.

Unfortunately, one can’t really consider this show to be the most amazing thing. While the scenic design is made up of many lovely true-to-the-era set pieces, they were very large and heavy, making scene changes drag on for too long, which coupled with nonessential additional scenes that cater to the large ensemble affect the entire pacing of the show greatly. The usage of large screens that project images that are supposed to help the audience understand the time and place of each scene became distracting and unnecessary.

A few of the actors’ choice of dialects were hard to understand, which sometimes subtracted from the important moments of the story.

“Little Women” possesses a score so difficult that even Tony Award-winning actress Sutton Foster (the original Jo March) struggled to master, especially in numbers such as “Astonishing.” This cast, however, excels musically. The majority of the leads have impressive vocal ranges, and almost every note is hit perfectly. Large dance numbers such as “I’d Be Delighted” are fun to watch, and the large ensemble song “The Weekly Volcano Press” was well staged and visually appealing, even though it was followed by an untimely and random curtain call of the entire ensemble that interrupted the flow of the story. Other standout numbers included “Off to Massachusetts,” “Our Finest Dreams” and “The Fire Within Me.”

Overall, this show is impressive given the immense amount of work that must have gone into producing it. Standout performances and impressive musical numbers make for a fun night, but long set changes and lags in the show throw off the pacing of the production all together.

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