Sussex Academy High School will set the stage for the holidays Thursday, through Saturday, Dec. 13-15, with its production of “Little Women: The Musical,” a musical version of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel “Little Women.”
The story of “Little Women” follows the four March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy - who live in poverty with their mother Marmee while their father fights in the U.S. Civil War. The timeless novel traces the girls’ adventures and misfortunes as they mature into womanhood.
Any adaptation of a novel naturally takes liberties in adjusting the story, and the musical version of Alcott’s novel is no exception. While all four sisters receive relatively equal treatment in the novel, the much-loved, adventurous Jo March is followed more closely in the musical than in the book.
”The audience follows Jo,” explains Erin Bobby, Sussex Academy High School theatre director. “When she leaves home to go to New York to pursue her writing career, we ‘go’ with her. The musical is very much about Jo’s coming of age.”
The addition of music is also a key feature of the show, with music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. The script (written by Allan Knee) not only features two exciting song renditions of Jo’s “Operatic Tragedy” (complete with a damsel in distress, sword fighting men, and singing trolls), but the score also soars with passion, excitement, and even tenderness, especially when the March family endures a heartbreaking loss late in the story.
”The story is gorgeous, and the music is beautiful,” remarked senior Kyra Cutsail, who will play Jo March. “I think this is some of the most beautiful music written in musical theater, period.”
The arrangements on stage will also breathe new life into the tale. The attic in “Little Women” is very important in the story since it is where the young March sisters play. The attic is also what inspires Jo March to write a novel about her childhood adventures.
With that in mind, Bobby has chosen to keep the furniture from the March’s attic on stage in all scenes. That is, until Jo is inspired toward the end of the show to write her autobiographical novel.
”The attic is ever-present in Jo’s life because in a way she kind of lives in the past,” Bobby states. "She always wants the past to stay exactly as it is, but she realizes the only way to do that is to immortalize it in her novel. Writing about her attic allows her to move on from it.”
The show as a whole has offered many new performance opportunities to Sussex Academy’s female population, who have fallen in love with the story and its characters.
“Jo is an inspiring character because she never gives up her dream of being a successful writer even when she is told to give up during a time women were seen as wives and mothers,” commented junior Sydney Elliott, who plays Older Amy March and is in her first lead in a musical. “It has been such an honor to play Amy March, Jo’s brat-turned-lady youngest sister because I never thought I would have the opportunity to play such a refined, feminine character.”
Even a veteran performer like Cutsail, who has been featured in multiple shows at the school, finds the show and its characters to be something special.
“I could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity to portray Jo in this production,” mused Cutsail. “I have never been so excited and nervous for an audition process, and I have never been more thrilled and terrified for a show.”
Sussex Academy’s production of “Little Women: The Musical” will run Dec. 13-15 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10/ adults and $5/children. Sussex Academy is located at 21150 Airport Road in Georgetown.