by Shirley Lorraine
Little Women plays strong in Camarillo
First performed as a musical in 2005, Little Women makes its Ventura County debut with strong performances chronicling the well known Civil War story originally published in 1934 by Louisa May Alcott.
The timeless tale of the March family comes to life on the stage of the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse in fine style. Father March has gone to war, leaving behind mother (Marmee) and four feisty daughters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. The sisters are a tight group, vowing to always stay together no matter what. Of course, circumstances change slightly as they grow older, each pining for their dream existence while discovering that reality has other plans.
Set in Concord, Massachusetts and New York during 1865 and 1866, the audience is easily transported back in time via authentically styled and detailed costumes, representative period set pieces and a casual flavor of elegance. Set design by theater veteran Dean Johnson is effective in its simplicity although some scene changes of shuffling furniture seemed rather superfluous to me. Just my opinion. An unchanging set scene of the professor’s library on stage left worked well.
The play is directed with a deft hand by Janelle Phaneuf who keeps the pace spirited throughout. Often seen on the stage herself, Musical Director Erin Fagundes does an overall admirable job of blending voices. Several of the men present with more enthusiasm than vocal acumen, although they should settle into their roles as the run continues. Keeping up with the vocal talents displayed by the female cast must be challenging.
The main character of Jo, a before-her-time feminist, is played with strength and conviction by Savannah Ludwig. Her voice is a force of nature, clear and true. Meg, the traditionalist daughter, is well pictured by Genevieve Levin. The frail and timid Beth is given a mighty characterization by Hannah Marks while the youngest, Amy, is portrayed by Hannah Marks, all to fine measure.
Marmee, the March mother, is solidly played by Aileen-Marie Scott. The formidable Aunt March brought to larger than life by Sindy McKay is a highlight. Both excel in their roles in disposition, bearing and vocals.
The men are well represented through Dale Alpert as Mr. Laurence, the dour neighbor across the street, Ezra Eells as Professor Bhaer, Jonathan Markham as young Laurie Laurence and Andrew Nunez as Mr. John Brooke. Each is given an opportunity to shine. All appear to be having a great time embodying their new personas.
Musical accompaniment is recorded which keeps everyone on their toes. The cast rises to the occasion admirably, although personally I would prefer to hear the actors over the music rather than the other way around. Perhaps due to the pace and the volume, some of the diction was lost to me. This did not lessen my enjoyment of the performance however.
Little Women, the Broadway musical, is entirely family friendly (a rarity in musical theater these days, it seems) built on a fine classic story. Suitable for all ages, this performance is a recommended start to the summer.
Little Women continues through July 15 at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive near the Camarillo airport. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, students and military. Contact the box office at [email protected] or call (805) 388-5716. Season subscriptions are available. Curtain is 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sundays.