One of the most beloved stories of all time is coming to the Williams Lake Studio Theatre stage.
Little Women, with a superb cast of actors and singers and directed by Becky Strickland and Liz Smith, is currently in dress-rehearsal for opening night on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Rehearsals began early November, and director Becky Strickland said that one of the best decisions she made was to start the singing first. She said that while she was still busy with the Maranatha Players’ Peter Panic, musical director Liz Smith began working with the cast from Little Women.
“We can come in now and they’re so confident in their music; I can throw blocking and movement at them and they’re able to take it on,” she explained about six weeks before opening night. “Things are going very well.”
The musical includes three and four part harmony, some with answering layered parts with harmony within the layering, says Srickland, who adds the music is quite complicated.
Strickland has directed musicals for many years at Maranatha Christian School. “Working with adults is different, but this cast has been wonderful. One of the things I like most about them is their complete commitment to the project,” she stated.
“Sometimes when you work with adults they can have a hard time listening to you as a director, and there can be some tension. That’s not the case with these guys. They’re very open to direction and to working with one another.”
Josephine March is played by Stacey Poirier. Margaret March is portrayed by Kathleen MacDonald. Beth March is played by Sarah Hanet and Amy March by Moriah Smith.
Val Hanet plays Marmee. Liz Smith plays Aunt March. Mark Kroeker plays Laurie. Cody Slin is John Brooke. Don Fornwald plays Mr. Lawrence. Jay Goddard is Professor Bhear and Jenn Dryden plays Mrs. Kirk.
Strickland says there are some new faces on stage for Little Women.
“Mark Koeker is new to Studio Theatre, although he has stage-managed and has done voice and choir.
Cody Slin is new to musicals. He has done only one play before this. Val Hanet, playing Marmee, has gone from producing musicals at Maranatha Christian School for years, to taking her first role on the stage in Little Women.
Val Hanet is on stage with her daughter, Sarah Hanet, who plays Beth in the play, and Strickland said that it’s a real change to flip your whole mindset from producer to actor.
“I know, as a director who has also been on stage, you have to switch your way of thinking.
You no longer worry about things happening off stage.
You have to worry about you on stage.
And she has a pretty big challenge facing her — playing a mother whose daughter dies.”
There is another mother/daughter team in the cast: Liz Smith and her daughter, Moriah Smith.
Strickland said that this musical was an easy choice for her.
“It’s a true Broadway musical, so the music is huge.
“There are 26 songs in the play, and every one is integral to the story line,” she noted.
“I grew up with this book — it was one of my favourites. The whole book is condensed into two hours so there is ‘time jumping.’ There is careful costuming that has been worked on since last summer, character aging, and the year and location projected on the wall for the audience’s convenience to follow the jumps.
“The songs in this musical are an extension of what they’re talking about.
“It’s not contrived – it really flows. The actors act the songs and they’re part of the actual story.” Casting the four sisters was key to the success of the play, she says.
“There were things during auditions, with all those four girls, that made me think, ‘You need to be Meg,’ and ‘You need to be Beth.’”
“When Sarah and Stacey (Beth and Jo) sang their haunting duet, it brought me to tears,” she says.
“When people come to this musical they will fall in love with these songs. They are fresh, new and exciting and you want to hear them again.”
The musical will run for three weeks, and tickets will be available at Open Book and About Face Photography.