All about Jo
Little Women: The Musical
It’s all about Jo. When you stage Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, you better have a good Jo—fun, feisty, full of life. And when you offer up the musical version, she also better have the voice and vigor of a musical star.
Thankfully, Runaway Stage found their perfect Jo for Little Women: The Musical in Kelly Daniels, who has a puckish personality, big stage presence and vocal chords that bolster the show’s songs. Daniels previously proved herself at Runaway Stage with her Annie Oakley, but in Little Women she also has to show more emotional range as the strong, stubborn Jo.
She delivers, along with her supportive cast members, most notably Tristan Rumery as Laurie (last seen as the Prince in Sacramento Theatre Company’s Christmastime Cinderella), Karen Day as Marmee, Runaway’s mainstay Tevye Ditter as Professor Bhaer and Katie Robberecht as Meg.
The musical is mostly faithful to the story of the four March sisters and their mother who bond together while their father is off fighting the Civil War. There are the familiar scenes of Jo displaying her refreshing independent streak and her love of storytelling; Meg, the wise older sister; Amy, the impetuous and spoiled youngest; sweet piano-playing Beth and the ever-patient Marmee. The musical starts with adult Jo looking back fondly on her childhood while struggling as a writer, and finally realizing the tales she should be telling are the treasure trove of sweet memories.
The only letdown is that Alcott’s wonderful story doesn’t really need a musical version, especially when this 2005 Broadway show gives us songs that are lukewarm and at times distracting. But the sentiment still shines through, thanks to the strong performances, good direction under Bob Baxter and a live orchestra that delivers, even with the unfamiliar tunes.