Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women concerns four sisters in post-Civil War Massachusetts, but at times it feels as if its musical adaptation should have been called "Little Woman," so focused on a single sibling it is... more ». Both Allan Knee's book and Sutton Foster's natural charisma and energy help constantly train the spotlight onto tomboy Jo. Yet it's not that much of a problem because Foster is strong enough to carry the show. She gets excellent support from the rest of the cast and especially cabaret artist Maureen McGovern, who as Marmee gets two beautiful ballads ("Here Alone" and "Days of Plenty") that are tailor-made for her imperial, burnished tone, and could well acquire a life outside the show. Composer Jason Howland worked as either musical director or musical supervisor on three period-set Frank Wildhorn musicals (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War), which gives him a distinct experience in dealing with the historical setting here. Although the score oftentimes veers to the bland side, Howland also shows encouraging signs of spryness ("Five Forever") and melodic confidence that at one point slyly honors Sondheim ("Astonishing"). Old-fashioned in the best possible way, Little Women makes a good complement to Wicked for those trying to entice a younger audience to the delights of the musical theater. --Elisabeth Vincentelli« less
Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women concerns four sisters in post-Civil War Massachusetts, but at times it feels as if its musical adaptation should have been called "Little Woman," so focused on a single sibling it is. Both Allan Knee's book and Sutton Foster's natural charisma and energy help constantly train the spotlight onto tomboy Jo. Yet it's not that much of a problem because Foster is strong enough to carry the show. She gets excellent support from the rest of the cast and especially cabaret artist Maureen McGovern, who as Marmee gets two beautiful ballads ("Here Alone" and "Days of Plenty") that are tailor-made for her imperial, burnished tone, and could well acquire a life outside the show. Composer Jason Howland worked as either musical director or musical supervisor on three period-set Frank Wildhorn musicals (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War), which gives him a distinct experience in dealing with the historical setting here. Although the score oftentimes veers to the bland side, Howland also shows encouraging signs of spryness ("Five Forever") and melodic confidence that at one point slyly honors Sondheim ("Astonishing"). Old-fashioned in the best possible way, Little Women makes a good complement to Wicked for those trying to entice a younger audience to the delights of the musical theater. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
""Little Women" is the kind of score that on your first listen sounds like you heard it before. There's an immediate familiarity about it, and the music by Jason Howland reminded me more than a little of the scores of "Jane Eyre," "The Scarlet Pimpernel," and others. The second act opening, in which the characters enact one of Jo March's stories, is even reminiscent of the second act opening of "Kiss of the Spider Woman." I kept getting a sense of déjà vu.
Still, after a few listens, it starts to distinguish itself just enough, and it's quite good overall. There are some attractive melodies, playful ensemble numbers, and even a pop-flavored power ballad or two. It's all put over by a strong cast, especially Sutton Foster as feisty Jo and Maureen McGovern as Marmee. They're also aided by a larger than usual orchestra that gives the recording a lush sound. Some of the highlights of the score include the solid numbers "Take A Chance On Me," "Five Forever," "Astonishing," and "Some Things Are Meant To Be."
As with all musical adaptations of classic works of literature, the story is greatly condensed, but based on the recording, it seems like the important points are covered well. Ultimately, though, there's just this feeling of predictability to it all, as if this is exactly what you would expect a musical version of "Little Women" to sound like. Still, it's a pleasant score, with some good performances, and this is a well produced recording. "
Broadway's new doll exceeds expectations once more
Adam D. Henderson | Waco, TX | 05/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After several listens, Little Women is nothing short of...well...astonishing, as the illustrious Sutton Foster, playing the leading role of Jo, belts out in the track of the same name. Louisa May Alcott's story is brought to heartfelt and charming life by a tremendous cast and the music of newcomer Jason Howland, who's craft is surprisingly fine-tuned and lurid in this, one of the few new bright spots on Broadway this year.
Taking a piece of classic literature and turning it into a show-stopping live performance is certainly an amibitious undertaking. With such high expectations, it had to have been a simple dicision to cast Sutton Foster, Broadway's new darling and Tony-winner from Thoroughly Modern Millie, in the leading role along with veterans such as Danny Gurwin and Maureen McGovern. Though the cast album certainly has its fair share of obvious filler, it helps that every time Foster opens her mouth, she practically erupts from the stage (or from your speakers) causing her audience to swoon. In fact, the largest problem with the musical itself is that there just isn't enough of it here.
Fortunately, what is here is musical genius, at least insofar as Broadway has seen in the past year or more. As far as the music itself goes, think the powerful numbers from Boublil and Schonberg's Martin Guerre combined with the charm, compassion and gusto of Wicked. While there certainly could have been more music tacked onto the end of the album as opposed to the brief and quippy orchestral numbers that were obviously placed there only to fill track space, it is decidedly refreshing to hear a new musical that can at least come close to meeting the expectations of something with the slightest bit of ambition.
With Broadway's recent track record for allowing clever little musical comedies such as Hairspray to take the coveted Tony Awards for Best New Musical from the likes of shows like Schwartz's Wicked or Brown's Parade, it will be a tough task for Little Women to defy custom and beat out the hyperbolic Spamalot in June, but if any show has the chance, this will be the one. Truly astonishing. "
A Treat for Young and Old, the Old Fashioned Way
Matthew J. Gallagher | Wilton, Connecticut United States | 01/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just saw "Little Women" last night in Boston, at the Opera House, an incredible theatre, built in the 1920's, and judging by the audience's reaction, this terrific show will do MUCH better on the road than it did on Broadway, where it was unfairly ripped by the NY Times critic, Ben Brantley, and didn't get the attention and respect it deserved. Simply put, the music is wonderful, overall, with several standout numbers, including "Days of Plenty," "Some Things Are Meant to Me," and "Astonishing." The wonderful number, at the beginning, which binds the four sisters together, "Our Finest Dreams," is lovely and spirited. It is very difficult to take a classic book and make it into a musical. Certainly some of the depth of the characters is taken out, but enough is there to carry the story across and, what's more, at the show I attended, there were MANY teens and children in the audience, as the theatre offered a free child's ticket for every adult ticket bought - and what struck me was how beautiful this story is about female empowerment - and sisterhood. Every time the sisters seem to be coming apart, they remind each other of their love and support for each other. What a courageous, wonderful message! The mother, played beautifully by Maureen McGovern, is instrumental in keeping home and hearth together while the girls' father is away at war. And with a REAL war going on in Iraq, this production was that much more moving. I disagree with many of the negative comments - the music and lyrics are of high quality, often moving, sincere, literate, and emotional. This may not be Rodgers and Hammerstein, but what is these days? This is closer to an old-fashioned musical than many - and it has heart and class. It certainly is better than something like "Hello, Dolly!" which really is a bogus story with only a couple of decent songs. Here, you have an involving story, with a terrific protagonist in Jo, surrounded by other compelling characters, and a whole world brought to life (the production I saw had stunning sets, costumes, and lighting), with passion and clarity. The fact that I saw "Little Women" in Boston, just a stone's throw away from Concord, where Louisa May Alcott actually lived - and where her home is preserved - may have had something to do with the overwhelmingly positive reaction I had to this fine production, but listen for yourself. The music and lyrics are hopeful and moving - it's a story for our times that reminds us of innocence, sacrifice, and good morals. It's a GREAT show for the entire family - and says something to young girls that is positive and life affirming. It is about all the things that really matter in life and it's certainly worth a few dollars - a bargain, if you ask me - to listen to this fine CD. The better thing is to catch the show on tour, where I predict it will have great success. You won't be disappointed!"
R. Harris | FL | 05/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first heard that Little Woman was going to be made into a musical I was really excited. I bought the album the day it came out and received it the next day. Whne I first listened to it, I must say I was disapointed. I thought it was just plain boring, so I put it away for a week. Then, I decided to give it a second chance, so I listened to the whole thing through. I was suprised when I ended up liking a few of the songs. After listening to it a few more times, I ended up liking even more of the songs. And as I continue to listen to it, I fall in love with another song each time. Those who write terrible reviews for this CD obviously are closed-minded people who expect to be blown-away the first time they listen to it. Well, unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Not every show can be as big as Wicked(and even in that CD, some songs take mutiple listenings before you like them.) Soms shows are a bit more quiet, but that doesn't mean it's any less amazing.
The songs on this CD are amazing. My two favorties are the nothing-less-than inspirational and powerful "Astonishing" and the heartfelt sisterly song "Some Things are Meant to Be". So many of the songs are wonderfully witty such as "Take a Chance on Me", "Better", "Could You?" and the touching "Small Umbrella in the Rain." And of course there are Marmee's two tearjerkers "Here Alone" and "Days of Plenty". Then, there's songs that just make you smile such as "I'd Be Delighted", "Five Forever", and "The Weekly Volcano Press". And then, there's a song that makes you want to get up and sing "The Fire Within Me." "Off to Massachusetts" is a song that NEVER gets out of your head.
The singers sing beautifully. Period. Maureen McGovern and Sutton Foster have powerful voices, but that's a given. Amy McAlexander as "Amy" has a cute voice that fits her character well. Megan McGinnis as "Beth" really does have the voice of an angel and her voice makes you want to sob in "Some Things are Meant to Be". Jenny Powers as "Meg" has a soothing voice fit for the oldest March sister.
All in all, this CD is fabulous! It's definitely worth buying!"
Heartfelt Musical Theatre!
Mrs C. Ivanoff | Adelaide, SA, Australia | 05/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a big fan of L.M. Alcott's classic I was sceptical about this CD. Also not having seen the show I was taking a chance buying it. I am sure glad I did. From the moment the music started playing I felt such a connection to it. And overwhelming emotion! By the time I got to "Some things were meant to be" I was sobbing and continued all through the very poignant "Days of Plenty". There is such delight in being reminded of childhood dreams and family togetherness, that our fast-paced lives sometimes forget. I don't believe Ms Alcott would be spinning in her grave at all. I bet she is thrilled that the Marchs' has been brought to life for another generation to discover and enjoy. It might be a story set in a different time........but the themes and emotions are timeless. "