8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through March 21
St. Luke's United Methodist Church
222 N.W. 15th
For its opening production of the season, Poteet Theater has brought the 2005 Broadway version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" to the metro. Based on her own family experiences, "Little Women" follows the March family during and after the American Civil War. Of the four sisters, Jo and her quest to be a published writer take center stage in the musical.
The original production received mixed reviews in New York and closed after brief run. I can see why: It's a flawed work. The rigid structure of abbreviated vignettes makes for economical storytelling, but compartmentalizes the emotional impact of each scene and threatens to turn a story that was all about the characters into just another plot-driven musical. The piece still has charm and a lot of humor, and to the credit of the creators of this adaptation and Poteet's strong cast, the qualities that made these characters so beloved still shine through.
Director and choreographer Cyndi Steele-Harrod has assembled an excellent cast of actors who charm and delight in their roles. Leah Coleman is a firebrand as would-be author and tomboy Jo. Full of energy and swagger, she thoroughly owns this part and the musical as a whole. Kristin Fitzgerald takes a more grounded approach, delivering a lovely performance as Meg. Keri Fuller is every bit as sweet as need be as Beth, but isn't given a lot to do until she gets sick in Act 2.
As the youngest sister, Amy, Frankie Goodman is almost too good at being a brat, making it difficult to forgive her even after Jo does. As older Amy, Brenna Noble does a good job of keeping the character likable by balancing her snobbery with her love of her family. As the family matriarch, Marmee, Marcy Gonzales is warm, wise and strong; like Fitzgerald, she delivers a natural performance that helps to anchor the piece emotionally.
As Laurie, friend and neighbor to the March sisters, Ronn Burton delivers a performance on par with the energy of Coleman's Jo, for whom he serves as an excellent friend and foil, creating some great chemistry "? chemistry sorely missed in Act 2. In just a few scenes, Patrick McGinnis makes an impact with his funny and heartwarming portrayal of a crotchety neighbor with a heart of gold, and Chris Sieker does earnest work as Laurie's tutor, John Brooke.
The songs don't reinvent the wheel, but save for a few descents into musical-theater clich