Director Michael Serrecchia has gathered some mighty big voices to play Little Women in the musical version of Louisa May Alcott's novel. Contemporary Theatre of Dallas ends its season with this show.
On a multi-level set by Rodney Dobbs that has the cast navigating steps made of giant stacks of books, the story of the plucky, squeaky-clean March sisters and their adoring "Marmee" unfolds. Jo, played by Monique Abry, moves with Hilary Swank-y swagger, even in her long skirts. The thin script by Allan Knee opens with a flashback, with Jo already living in New York City, writing blood-and-guts potboilers that precede her later, better literary output.
Back home, Marmee (Angela Davis) tries to make nice debutantes of Meg (Elizabeth McWhorter, suffering under a dreadful wig), Beth (Katie Moyes Williams) and Amy (Grace Loncar). The boy next door, Laurie (Leo Thomasian), falls for Jo, then Amy. Meg marries gallant John (Max Swarner) before he heads off to fight for the Union in the Civil War.
It's all cute and quaint, with Jo singing about wanting to be "Astonishing" (the score by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein might as well be for The Little Mermaid, it's so sticky-sweet). Davis lends her velvety alto to the best song, the rueful "Days of Plenty." There's an awful lot of hugging.
Performances are fine all around. Loncar, only 14, is a capable singer and natural comic with a voice like Betty Boop. Watch for her in more shows next season. Her mom owns this theater.