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Lovely Little Women, The Dio, Review November 20, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.

Back in 2005, Sutton Foster created a stirring Jo March in the short lived Broadway musical Little Women, written by Allan Knee, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and Music by Jason Howland. The audience was faced with a beautiful act curtain upon entering, with handwritten pages of Jo’s “Little Women” book, and I was entranced by the entire production, including Maureen McGovern as Marmee. It ran less than six months but garnered a sizable following because of its lush old-fashioned score and rising star Foster and her big belt numbers in the show.

In 2011 I reviewed a production that Steve DeBruyne directed at Encore Musical Theatre Company. Last night it was my pleasure to see a new and very different production also helmed by Steve at The Dio. 

Most likely you know the story – the four March Sisters are alone in Concord while their father is off serving as a chaplain in the Civil War. It spends very little time focusing on wartime, rather focusing on the small (and large) family events in the March family – their romances, their squabbles, and one heartbreaking death. 

The production plays out on Matt Tomich’s beautiful double-decker set; with lively direction by DeBruyne and graceful choreography by Grace Nulson. Performed to a track, the crisp musical direction is by Lisa Merte. Costumes by Normal Polk, wig design by Chloe Grisa, and Props by Eileen Obradovich are lovely. It’s a very large production to be sure, but it moves quickly and professionally from scene to scene in the limited space. The final sequence in the garden is particularly nice. If there is a technical squabble, it is that the actors sometimes struggle to match their songs to the pacing of the tracked music rather than singing more naturally and having the orchestra follow them – which results in some occasional pacing issues.

The cast is uniformly superb – Anna Dreslinki Cooke makes a lively and funny Jo March and her sisters Beth (Anne Koziara), Amy (Maddie Ringvelski) and Meg (Sarah Brown) are outstanding in their respective roles. Marlene Inmann gets to sing Marmee’s fantastic songs and she is remarkable. Anne Bauman plays a snide and fun Aunt March and doubles as Mrs Kirk in the boarding house in New York.  The men are equally impressive: Steve DeBruyne as John Brooke, Tyler J Messinger as Laurie, Dan Morrison as his father Mr Lawrence, and Sam Wright as Professor Bhaer (you know where that storyline is going from his first lines) are all good in their parts.

As we left the theater last night, we emerged to a winter wonderland of fresh snow – and the evening (dinner, show, friends, and snow) was, in the words of the most famous song from the show, astonishing.           

Highly Recommended.

Little Women continues at The Dio through December 23rd although all performanes are sold out. You can check for cancellations through the theater by phone only (517) 672-6009

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