Culture Magazine

Review: Little Women (The James Downing Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Little Women the Musical, James Downing Theatre   
Little Women  

By Allen Knee (book), Mindi Dickstein (lyrics)
   and Jason Howland (music)
Directed by Corey Mills
Waldron Arts Center, 6740 N. Oliphant (map)
thru March 3  |  tickets: $13-$20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Endearing but not quite captivating


Little Women the Musical - James Downing Theatre 2


The James Downing Theatre presents


Little Women the Musical

Review by Anuja Vaidya

The much beloved Louisa May Alcott novel, ‘Little Women’, chronicles the lives of the March sisters as they transition from the world of carefree childhood to adulthood – a journey that is both challenging and rewarding. The James Downing Theatre‘s production of Little Women – the musical does a wonderful job of capturing the endearing characters and heartwarming moments of the story, but the production does come to the point of hysterics one too many times.

Little Women the Musical - James Downing Theatre 3
One cannot deny that Jo March is the heart and soul of ‘Little Women’. This coming of age tale follows Jo through her growing pains and her pursuit to be a great writer. Ms. March is among the legion of women in literature who helped throw out the notion that a woman’s role is standing demurely by the side of her husband. She is opinionated, irrepressible and hotheaded. While each of the March sisters matures in her own way, it is Jo who has to grow the most and learn that change is merely a part of life.

Capturing the emotional arc of the characters as they grow up, while challenging, is an essential aspect of the story. Unfortunately this production does not quite succeed in giving us a sense of those changes. Either it feels as though the characters don’t change at all, or that they have changed all of a sudden.

Molly Kral as Jo March is one of the performers who gives us a tangible sense of Jo the girl and then later Jo the woman. However, as Jo the girl, she falls into the trap of giving an over-wrought performance. She is spirited to the point of being over the top. As Jo the woman, towards the end of the play, she gives us a young woman, as determined as ever but far more collected. Kral also has a beautiful voice and her singing is lovely.

The standout performance of the show is Christine Morgan as Beth. Morgan is particularly impressive because it is difficult to give a memorable performance as the quiet, unassuming Beth. Not only is Beth the one character who hardly changes over the course of the play, but she also doesn’t get into scrapes like her sisters and consequently is left out of the more entertaining episodes. She is brought into focus only when she dies, making her a symbol for a great tragedy that Jo has to overcome in her journey to becoming a woman. But Morgan gives us a Beth who is funny and spirited in her own way, besides being merely sweet. It is easy to see why her sisters love her so much and why her loss is such a blow. Even though Morgan does not have as much stage time as the others, she makes a mark.

The biggest issue in the show is that the performances sometimes disintegrate into hysterics and shouting matches. This takes away from the nuances in the original story, which is what makes it such a compelling story in the first place. It is not easy to integrate nuance into musicals, but it isn’t impossible. Another issue is the length. At over two hours long, including an intermission, the show does have you looking at your watch towards the end.

Having said that, however, this production does manage to capture the heart of story. It is sweet and funny and has all the integral elements of a musical. You will leave the theater entertained and buoyed by this tale of hope, love and the ties of family and friendship that endure.


Rating: ★★½



Little Women continues through March 3rd at The John Waldron Arts Center (housed at Edison Park United Methodist Church), 6740 N. Oliphant (map), with performances Saturdays at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, Sundays at 1:30pm.  Tickets are $13-$20, and are available by phone (224-725-3696) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)

Little Women the Musical - James Downing Theatre
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Molly Kral (Jo March); Mary-Margaret Roberts (Amy March); Johanna Moffitt (Meg March); Christine Morgan (Beth March); Whitney Langas (Marmee March); Kyle Kuhlman (Laurie); Regina Webster (Aunt March); Marty Grubbs (Mr. Lawrence); Blake Reddick (Professor Bhaer); Matt Patrick (Mr. Brooke)

behind the scenes

Corey Mills (Director, Set Design); Marty Grubbs (Assistant Director, Props); Marta Johnson (Musical Director); Steve Kedzierski (Technical Director, Set Design/ Construction, Lighting Design); Molly Kral, Corey Mills (Costumes); Manuel Ortiz (Photography); Lili Mitchell (House Management); Anne Lunde, Diane Kumpf, Maru Schenk (Publicity); Shirley Skopec, Shirley Spear, Mari Bourne, Anne Lunde, Reynolds Clifford, Mary Hodur (Box Office/Concessions)


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