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Have you ever wanted have tea in a beautiful Civil War-era living room, and eavesdrop on the happenings of a dynamic family from that very time? Now is your chance. Little Women is being presented by Women’s Theatre Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina at Sonorous Road Theatre and Film Studio November 24-26 and November 30- December 3rd. From the moment audience members walk through the doors of Sonorous Road Theatre, they are transported to another time and place. Greeted by costumed performers, with costumes designed by Elena Mulligan, and offered cake and tea, with the teacup of one’s choice, each audience member is made to feel special from the get-go in this incredibly interactive performance.
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, and beautifully adapted into a two-act stage production by Lorelei Lemon, Little Women is set in New England during and after the American Civil War. The play follows the lives of four sisters, Jo (Lorelei Lemon), Meg (Beth Somerville), Beth (Natalia Soto), and Amy March (Seanna Osborne and Miana White alternating as Younger Amy and Sierra Smith as Older Amy), whose father is serving in the war and whose mother, Marmee (Sandra Wallace) binds her family together, serving as a guiding light for her daughters in the midst of having lost their fortune.
When audience members walk into the theatre, with Ben Whitley’s design, they are truly made to feel at home in the March family’s living room, being given a choice of seats, including antique chairs, placed all around the theatre—even in places that would put one in very close proximity with the actors themselves during the performance. While one may think that a warehouse-style ceiling would take away from the realism of the setting, this could not be farther from the truth. The theatre’s slightly industrial feel is softened with lighting designer Anthony Buckner’s design featuring exquisite chandeliers hung from the ceiling’s pipes.
This production features a lively, talented cast. Jo’s (Lorelei Lemon) quirkiness, tomboyish charm, and strong-willed attitude leave a lasting impression, truly bringing to life the Jo we all know from Alcott’s novel. Young Amy, (played the night I watched by Seanna Osborne) wins the hearts of all in the audience with her endearing, comical presence and unique grammatical concoctions. Marmee’s (Sandra Wallace) calming presence puts all at ease in the midst of family conflict or turmoil. The ensemble is wonderfully cast, adding elements of music and dance to an already rich production.
Director Katy Koop’s originality and commitment to inclusivity are evident. Not only is this production sensory-friendly, it also features a racially diverse cast, a choice which combats the racial tension at the time during which the play is set, as well as the lack of racial representation that can be found even in twenty-first century theatre and film productions. With its universal themes, this family-friendly event is perfect for all to attend this holiday season, and it serves to remind us that “family” is not narrowly defined. “Sally forth!” Take your seat at the March family table.