By Mary Mazza Hendricks
With sets that rivaled Broadway and dynamic, emotive singers, Town & Gown Summer Theatre’s musical “Little Women” transported the audience to the Civil War era for the evening, entertaining them all the while.
Troy Snyder was the set and lighting designer for “Little Women.” With master carpenter and assistant technical director Dan Fynaardt, Snyder created remarkable sets with staircases and lofts, and an attic that sailed straight from the pages of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel on which the play was based. Stage manager Amanda Wiley kept a smooth pace with the 14 set changes.
FSU acting/theatre professor Dr. Francene Kirk directed the intense character study of the four March sisters whose mother, Marmee, played by Elizabeth C. Wotring-Nelson, also a FSU faculty member. Marmee has taken over as head of household while her husband serves as a chaplain on the Civil War battlefields.
Wotring-Nelson’s stirring ballad “Here Alone” voiced her concerns for her daughters and her loneliness for her mate. The emotional “Days of Plenty” showcased Wotring-Nelson’s range and strong singing voice.
Speaking of strength, Dani DeVito as the aspiring writer Jo, shone as the lead character, appearing in nearly every scene. Her three solos and three duets were passionate, rousing, and harmonious. She sang in three other songs with the company as well.
With a voice as sweet as her character, Shannon Yost played Beth, the sister who contracts scarlet fever. Her duet with DeVito, “Some Things Are Meant to Be,” was poignant and moving.
William Hostutler, with his clear, clipped accent as Professor Bhaer, Jo’s future husband, brought the audience to laughter when an uncooperative umbrella wouldn’t open. During “Small Umbrella in the Rain,” thinking quickly, he used his top hat, instead of the bumbershoot, to shield his lady love, and the two didn’t miss a beat.
Other standouts in the cast were Bekah James as Amy March, Maddie Lafollette as Meg March, Ray Mainenti as Mr. Laurence, Geoff Coyle as Mr. John Brooke, and Brady Dunn as Laurie Laurence. Kate Thompson’s Aunt March was the musical’s dark character with her stern, judgmental dialogue and tunes with Jo.
John Morrison led the orchestra as musical director, and Wotring-Nelson choreographed the show while serving as vocal coach. Kate Thompson was the sound designer for “Little Women.”
Linda O’Connor and Jason Noland, costume designers, provided lovely pieces that enhanced the Civil War atmosphere. The Illusive Skull Costume Castle of Fairmont furnished the gowns and formal wear for the Valentine Ball.
“Little Women” was one of two plays from the Town & Gown Summer Theatre company this summer season. Prickett’s Fort State Park will host the summer’s second production, “Farmers Market the Musical,” on June 28-30 and July 4-6 at 8 p.m. Reserve seats are available online at www.fairmontstate.edu/tickets or by calling the Box Office at (304) 367-4240; tickets are $13 each.