Sweet & spirited 'Little Women: The Musical' at OSTC

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Is there a woman out there who didn’t read Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” as a young girl?

The musical version of the 1869 semi-autobiographical novel is getting a sweet and spirited interpretation at Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre Company.

The two-act musical is loaded with 18 songs, giving it an operetta feeling, as the dialogue moves from one song to the next, interspersed with short vignettes about the four March sisters growing up in Massachusetts.

The central character is Jo (Tess Jonas), a free-spirited, tomboyish, aspiring writer with 22 rejection slips. Sister Meg (Alison Novelli) is the romantic; Beth (Byrn Martic) is the kind-hearted soul; and Amy (Abigail McMartin) is the younger pretentious one. They are being raised by their mother (Amiee Turner) while their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War. The slim story is enhanced by the characters recreating some of Jo’s short stories, in addition to the multitude of songs.

Scenic designer Clifton Chadick has built a utilitarian set that perfectly serves the story, as Jo moves back and forth from New York City to Massachusetts over a period of four years.

We watch the sisters grow into mature women after facing requited love, death, hope and despair in their single and collective lives. There are suitors and an overbearing aunt (Staci Morin) along their journey.

Never to be accused of labeling the musical as a “women’s play,” I must admit that Joyce enjoyed this one much more than I did.

I must acknowledge the excellent voices, especially the women, although I was not overwhelmed with most of the songs.

While the musical centers on the lives and personalities of the “little Women,” Michael Longo shines as Laurie, Jo’s friend who wants to be more than a friend.

The orchestra, under the direction of Esther Zabinski, does an excellent job, never overpowering the fine voices.

This is a good musical to bring young daughters and granddaughters to (they should still read the book) to give them a taste of life back in the 1800s.

“Little Women: The Musical” is at Ocean State Theatre through March 19. $39-$59. Call 921-6800 for reservations.

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