Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 8:26 pm | Mostly Cloudy 49º


Gerald Carpenter: PCPA Brings ‘Little Women’ to Solvang

Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, the production runs through July 1

Three months after it closed at the Marian Theatre in Santa Maria, the PCPA Theaterfest production of Little Women, the Broadway Musical opened Thursday at the Festival Theater in Solvang for a two-week run.

Based on the beloved novel by Louisa May Alcott, with a book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, Little Women, the Broadway Musical is directed by Roger DeLaurier, with musical direction by Callum Morris, choreography by Michael Jenkinson, sets by DeAnne Kennedy, costumes by Judy Ryerson, lighting by Jennifer “Z” Zornow and sound by Elisabeth Rebel.

The production stars Karin Hendricks (Jo), Andrew Philpot (Professor Bhaer), Brittney Monroe (Amy), Sarah Girard (Meg), Renee Wylder (Beth), Elizabeth Stuart (Marmee), Michael Tremblay (Mr. Lawrence) and Scott Fuss (Laurie).

Alcott’s novel was published in 1868-1869 and was immediately and permanently popular. Its two sequels also sold well. Unlike Uncle Tom’s Cabin and many other famous American novels of the 19th century, Little Women seems never to have been dramatized — perhaps because no theater company wanted to have all those young actors staying up past their bedtimes. There have been, to date, at least five films made of the novel, of which Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version is a standout. But the 2005 musical version by Knee, Howland and Dickstein seems to be the first time the book has been staged. And a very tuneful, amusing staging it is.

The novel’s popularity has survived some radical changes in the American psyche. (Readers tend now to want Jo to marry Laurie, and are baffled at her decision to marry a middle-aged — foreign! — intellectual.) But Alcott was a feminist, as Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, and her feminism becomes more obvious with each passing decade. She was a champion of the individuality and independence of women, and several historians have proposed that Little Women did more for the liberation of American women than all of the speeches and essays of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony put together.

To say that the novel is autobiographical is accurate, so far as it goes, but it is not to be taken as straight history of the Alcott family. Louisa May ultimately did have to take over the running and feeding of her large family of siblings. Her father, Bronson Alcott, though he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of the intellectual giants of his time — Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau — was hopeless as a provider or arbiter, and her mother was more devoted to her charity work than to her own children.

Bronson was, not to put too fine a point on it, a blowhard and a charlatan. Once Little Women was published, in any case, they no longer faced starvation and ruin — which had been a real possibility before, thanks to Bronson’s reckless improvidence.

In his amazing literary history of the 1890s, The Mauve Decade, Thomas Beer devoted the first chapter, “The Titaness,” to Louisa May Alcott, and he opens with a startling scene involving the Bronson ménage — in a crisis. Not nearly as endearing as the family is portrayed in Alcott’s novel, it is probably much closer to the life as they lived it:

“They laid Jesse James in his grave and Dante Gabriel Rossetti died immediately. Then Charles Darwin was deplored and then, on April 27, 1882, Louisa May Alcott hurried to write in her journal: ‘Mr. Emerson died at 9 p.m. suddenly. Our best and greatest American gone. The nearest and dearest friend Father has ever had and the man who helped me most by his life, his books and his society. Illustrious and beloved friend, good-bye!’ So she made a lyre of yellow jonquils for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s preposterous funeral and somehow steered Bronson Alcott through the dreary business until he stood beside the coffin in the damp cemetery and mechanically drawled out the lines of a dire poem. Under the shock the tall old idler was a mere automaton with a bloodless face that startled watchers as he stepped back from the grave into which his one importance sank. Emerson was going for him! He was losing his apologist, his topic. His fingers fell on the shoulder of a little boy who had pressed forward to see and the grip became so cruel that Louisa saw and her hoarse voice rose in the hush: ‘Pa! Let go! You’re hurting Georgie’s arm!’ But her father could hear nothing. She stooped and wrenched the child’s arm free.”

Little Women will play at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through July 1 and Tuesday, June 26, at the Festival Theater in Solvang, 420 Second St. For single tickets ($31 to $35) and show times, call the box office at 805.922.8313, or click here for more information.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >