Westfield High School
After months apart, the March sisters are brought together again under unfortunate circumstances: their youngest sister, Beth, is slowly succumbing to scarlet fever. As Jo rushes home from New York City to be with Beth, she grasps on to the fleeting threads of her golden childhood as they slip from her fingers, like a kite floating away into the sky. Tuscarora High School's heartfelt finale production of Little Women told a story of hope and perseverance that transcends time.
Louisa May Alcott published her classic coming-of-age story, Little Women, in multiple volumes, from 1868 to 1869. The semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of four sisters--Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth as they grow up in Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War. In 2005, the musical adaptation of the book premiered on Broadway.
Tuscarora performed their production onstage, which, in 2021, came with its own set of difficulties and challenges. The actors all wore clear face shields that allowed them to show facial expressions and sing without being inhibited by a cloth mask. Furthermore, the creative blocking enabled the cast to cleverly circumvent definite COVID no-nos, like an onstage kiss; the actors instead held an umbrella in front of their faces, letting innuendo drive the scene.
Ella Nassauer starred in the leading role of Jo March. Nassauer depicted all of Jo's complicated relationships, like her overwhelming love for Beth (Ellie Mazer), her awkwardness with childhood friend Laurie (Riley Steinkirchner), and her newfound love for Professor Bhaer (Ryan Gill). Her powerful voice reinforced her acting: in her duet with Mazer, the women's precise vocal blend enhanced the scene's intimacy and further developed the sisterly dynamic between the girls.
Dillan Vanzego brought a warm and comforting presence to the show as Marmee, the girls' mother. Her soothing mannerisms distinguished her as a mature figure amongst the younger characters. April Anthony's portrayal of Aunt March contributed much-needed humor: Anthony's adept comedic timing elevated Aunt March's snappy comedy, especially in her huffy remarks to Jo. Brigid Pellicano portrayed Amy, Aunt March's favorite March girl. Pellicano contributed a buoyant presence to the show as the love-struck younger sister; her vibrant energy enriched her fun scene with Riley Steinkirchner (Laurie) with liveliness.
The versatile set crafted by Ryan De Angioletti transformed every scene to create each new location. It even featured a fireplace with dancing flames in its hearth! The set provided a lovely backdrop for all the other technical details to shine, like the period costumes and props. Claudia Hunn and Bailey Vigil's work in costuming assured that each character had a distinctive color scheme in their casual and formal dresses. The wigs styled by Emily Giessmann were the cherry on top of the beautiful costumes: the detailed wigs were fashioned so well they looked real. The props team (Peyton Voorheis and Gwenalyn Abrams) located an antique wheelchair for Beth to use and provided props to support social distancing. Finally, through their work with the actors, choral masters Ryan Gill and Patrick Hensley ensured that each actor's voice blended perfectly with one another--a mark of any solid musical.
After more than a year of being separated from loved ones, Tuscarora High School's sentimental production of Little Women reminded us all of the blessings of hope, love, and family.
Chantilly High School
When caught between ambition and familial connection, which do you choose? Can you truly be great without those you love most? In an empowering display of feminine force, Tuscarora High School's production of Little Women revealed that in finding one's true destiny, the enduring bond of sisterhood is always present.
The musical adaptation of Little Women (by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein) is based on Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, originally published in 1869. In a departure from the original text, the musical focuses on the most salient features of the plot, omitting much of male character importance to emphasize the sisters' bond and individual developments.
Set in Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-1860s, the coming-of-age story centers on the perspectives of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, in their own tumultuous year. At the center of the narrative, or rather behind the pen, is Jo, a zealous writer with a flair for the melodramatic, unyielding to traditional values. However, with mounting domestic complications, the sisters find themselves confronted with loss and heartache, beyond even their own changed purviews.
Jo March (Ella Nassauer), fiery and emboldened, has her own illusions of grandeur, persisting through rejection and pitfalls. Nassauer displayed an incredible range, adding her own passions rather than relying on archetypes alone. Her scintillating vibrato gripped audiences bittersweetly during her final moments with Beth, and her powerhouse vocal breadth and agility complimented her anguished guilt in the wake of losing her dearest sister. Providing a calmer foil, Professor Bhaer (Ryan Gill) rounded out the perfect opposites-attract trope. Gill's oscillation between subterranean sustained notes and vaulting head voice was to be lauded, as he masterfully captured shifts in his feelings towards Jo.
Completing the quartet of sisters, Meg (Ryan Cylde), Beth (Ellie Mazer), and Amy (Brigid Pellicano) dynamically portrayed the siblings' affections and frustrations with rapport and authenticity. Mazer and Nassauer's heartwarming bond was evident in every interaction, speaking of each other with fondness even in the other's absence. Pellicano's burgeoning grandiosity upon her return from Europe highlighted all the flair of the extravagant youngest sister. Providing an adult contrast to the sisters' vitality, Dillan Vanzego's Marmee sagely imparted life advice in the wake of the family's tragedy with a soulful belting array. April Anthony's snappy repertoire as Aunt March lightened the story, with her off-handed comments always ending with self-aggrandizing remarks at the expense of her loved ones.
Adding to the comforting air, the technical elements immersed the audience in Civil War Era Northeast. A minimalistic, yet homey set design (Ryan De Angioletti) was utilized beautifully and showed contrasts between the bright living room and dusty attic where Jo's writing came to fruition. As the central backdrop for the March family's calamity, a fireplace with moving flame and brightly accented furniture welcomed the audience as a part of the family. A brilliant use of staging combatted the physical restrictions of COVID by using a parasol to cover a kissing scene in an undistracting, adorable manner. Effort, time, and research were shown as the cast donned puffed sleeves and taffetas in true mid-19th century fashion (Claudia Hunn & Bailey Vigil). Flawlessly incorporated props emphasized the time period, most notably a beautiful, vintage wheelchair, dress form, and kite (Peyton Voorheis and Gwenalyn Abrams).
Whether it be heartbreak or achieving your dreams, Tuscarora's captivating performance of Little Women gave us this simple, yet ever-important message: with love, strength, and determination, anything can be conquered with our family at our side.