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- American novelist
- American actress
Jan. 13—When "Little Women" — a novel by abolitionist Louisa May Alcott — was published in the late 1860s, it was an immediate commercial success.
Readers couldn't get enough of the coming-of-age novel that followed the lives of the spirited March sisters who grew up in rural New England during the Civil War.
In 1994, a film adaptation of the beloved book — starring Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Trini Alvarado and Susan Sarandon — did quite well at the box office.
In 2019, the story was again brought to the big screen by "Lady Bird" director Greta Gerwig and featured Timothée Chalamet and Emma Watson in the cast. Grossing $218 million worldwide, the flick resonated with fans of the semi-autobiographical novel — said to be based on Alcott and her sisters — that has proven to have significant staying power for over 150 years.
Longmont's Jesters Dinner Theatre opened the musical "Little Women" earlier this month.
"I have done three different productions of 'Little Women,' including this run at Jesters Dinner Theatre," said actress Jordyn Morgan. "I have played Amy, Beth and now Jo March. I love Jo for her individuality, drive for life and adventure, endless passion and her deep bond to her sisters."
Irish film star Saoirse Ronan played Jo March in Greta Gerwig's recent film adaptation. The character is pretty much the rebel sister who wear pants instead of dresses, talks about not wanting to step into the role of a wife and who dreams of obtaining financial freedom as a successful writer — a goal that, for the time, was pretty lofty for a woman.
"I would say the beauty of Louisa May Alcott's story is that anyone can identify with one or all of the sisters and feel they are a part of that family," Morgan said. "I am a big fan of 'Little Women' in general, but the beauty of the musical and book is you end a different person, meaning you find a beauty in life and death that wasn't there before. I have found myself in each of the sisters, but long to be more like Jo as I admire her strength and fire."
Like the character of Jo, Morgan knew what she wanted her career path to be from a young age.
"I grew up doing theater year-round, under contract since I was 5, here in Colorado," Morgan said. "I think that love for theater has always been there, but being in New York City for six years definitely shaped me as an artist."
Before the pandemic, Morgan landed the role of Beth in a production of "Little Women" put on by The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Frederick, Md., in January 2020. After the production wrapped in February, it wasn't long before theater lights were dimmed and stages left empty at venues across the country.
Yet, Morgan explored options and sought out theatrical opportunities that were still forging on.
"I was in New York City up 'til COVID-19 hit the United States," Morgan said . "Auditions and theaters were quickly shut down and I traveled back to Colorado to be with family for a short time, not expecting to be able to do any shows. I was lucky enough to find many projects here and in New York City to continue doing during the heat of the pandemic, which helped keep my sanity in such an uncertain time."
"Little Women" is filled with themes of family and childhood memories; some critics have labeled it a feminist novel.
"I do theater not only because it's my passion, but because I want to make a difference in the world no matter how big or small," Morgan said. "I love having people come into a show thinking a certain way and believing what they always have and after a performance, leaving changed or thinking about life and humanity in a different or deeper way with a new respect for each other."
The timeless story of sisterly love continues to be honored in various ways, with quotes from the book showing up on sweatshirts and the characters' likeness portrayed on coffee mugs via Etsy.
"My favorite part about playing Amy is the attitude I get to bring onto the stage," said Lena Byrne, who said she used method acting for this role. "On a more serious note, I think Amy is overlooked in the story 'Little Women' and is often labeled as the bratty younger sister, or the attention-seeker when, in reality, she is an incredibly strong, outspoken young woman who feels she is growing up in the shadow of her siblings; a feeling I can heavily relate to. She tries her best to be loud and noticed, because growing up as the youngest sibling can make it hard to feel seen."
This is Byrne's second time playing the youngest March sister.
"This time around I have a much better grasp on the depth of her character," Byrne said.
While the book touched readers, the musical adds another artful element with a rich repertoire of songs.
"For me, personally, the music is what really brings this story to life," Byrne said. "Especially the two songs Marmee, the mother of the little women, sings. They are so heartfelt and touching, shining light on the struggles of a single mother during the war."
While the musical has its humorous parts, it isn't without a few tear-jerking moments. After all, the March women are living in times of uncertainty with the patriarch of the family off serving as a chaplain in the war.
"Expect to cry in the best way possible," Byrne said. " I've watched the show a countless amount of times. The relationships between the sisters and their mother is truly so pure, it gets me every time. I believe we have some incredibly talented women in this show and it is absolutely worth it to come watch."
At a time where certain live events are being put off due to the threat of the omicron variant of COVID, Byrne feels lucky to be able to gather with a tight-knit cast and entertain the public in a safe environment.
"The most rewarding aspect of live performance is, and always will be, the connection between cast members," Byrne said. "I get to perform with some of the most kind humans I have ever met, in the middle of such a hard time. Coming to Jesters is my safe place where I get to be myself freely around the people I love and trust. During 2020 I lost that part of my life, along with many other parts, and I am more grateful than ever to get on stage every weekend with people I love, doing what I love."
Tickets for "Little Women" range from $17-$48 and attendees have the option to watch it with or without the dinner service.
Running through March 13, the show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. for Saturday and Sunday matinee shows. If planning to dine, seating starts at 6 p.m. for the evening productions and at 12:30 p.m. prior to afternoon shows.
"Sales have been slow to start 'Little Women,' but sales were great for 'Scrooge' in December," said Scott Moore, owner of Jesters. "I know there are people who are hesitant still to go out, but I think they are far outnumbered by those who are ready to get back to normal."
In the 1980s, multiple Japanese anime series of "Little Women" were made for television and an operatic interpretation is still performed in concert halls today.
"'Little Women,' is, of course, already a well-known novel, but I think there's something endearing about a show that doesn't have spectacle and that carries its weight in just plot and character," Moore said.