The Tony Award-winner's warm and clarion voice is being recognized as one of the highlights of the new musical inspired by the 19th-century coming-of-age novel by Louisa May Alcott. She plays Jo March at Broadway's Virginia Theatre, along with Maureen McGovern as Marmee, and Megan McGinnis, Jenny Powers, Amy McAlexander as young March sisters Beth, Meg and Amy. The company also includes Danny Gurwin, Janet Carroll, Robert Stattel, Jim Weitzer and John Hickok.
Foster and McGovern were nominated for 2005 Drama Desk Awards for their work in the show, and Foster was also Best Actress-nominated by the Outer Critics Circle this year.
The release includes a glossy color booklet packed with production photos, a synopsis by book writer Allan Knee and the complete lyrics by Dickstein.
Andrew Wilder conducts the orchestra. Orchestrations are by Kim Scharnberg. Lance Horne handled the vocal arrangements. Susan H. Schulman directed the Broadway production. A national tour of the show has been announced, with McGovern to again play the role of the sisters' mother, Marmee, who struggles to raise her "little women" during Civil War times in Concord, MA.
For more information visit www.littlewomenonbroadway.com.
According to the opening night Playbill, the Howland-Dickstein score includes the following titles: "An Operatic Tragedy," "Better," "Our Finest Dreams," "Here Alone," "Could You," "I'd Be Delighted," "Take a Chance on Me," "Better" (reprise), "Off to Massachusetts," "Five Forever," "More Than I Am," "Take a Chance on Me" (reprise), "Astonishing," "The Weekly Volcano Press," "Off to Massachusetts" (reprise), "How I Am," "Some Things Are Meant to Be," "The Most Amazing Thing," "Days of Plenty," "The Fire Within Me," "Small Umbrella in the Rain," "Sometimes When You Dream."
Echoing the still-contemporary themes of war, parenting and loss, is a new score that has a contemporary feel — Howland and Dickstein don't write dainty Stephen Foster pastiche, but a mix of traditional Broadway-style tunes with some flashes of pop arrangements.
"Well, we feel it's a contemporary story, without being overt about it," said Dickstein. "Just as there are contemporary qualities to the music and the characters and story and certainly the lyrics, I'm still conscious when I use a word or a phrase, I look it up and see if it was used at that time. I want to be true to the period. What we always say is that we're honoring its essence — the spirit of the story, yet also trying to bring out what's in it that is modern. [Alcott] was a modern woman."
Composer Jason Howland explained, "We've had people come to presentations in the past two years, and people have said, 'Somebody needs to talk to the composer — it's not period at all.' One of my strong influences is Richard Rodgers, who always managed to have the idea of the world he was operating in without ever being overt. Like with The King and I, he didn't write in the pentatonic scale all day long for that show."
Howland continued, "We have one overtly period number, 'Off to Massachusetts,' but otherwise, Jo is a contemporary heroine, so the contemporary sound of it makes sense. At the same time, there's no overt anthemic pop song from Chess and nothing electric in the pit. I hate synthesizers in the pit."
The 10-actor chamber musical, capitalized at $5.6 million, has 12 musicians and a conductor (Andrew Wilder, the music director and one of the arrangers) in the pit.
The musical is slice of Victorian family life that includes hardscrabble days, budding romance, Christmas joys and painful loss.
Sutton Foster won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
McGovern is the actress and recording artist known for everything from "The Morning After" to studio recordings of Let 'Em Eat Cake and Of Thee I Sing, as well as appearances in Broadway shows (The Pirates of Penzance, 3 Penny Opera).
Director Susan H. Schulman is known for Violet, The Secret Garden and The Sound of Music.
Little Women is an American literary title so obvious that it's a surprise that a musical version hasn't hit big on Broadway yet. A search of the internet reveals a number of musical versions of the 1868 property, which is in the public domain and therefore ripe for free picking by playwrights and songwriters.
The Modern Library has reissued the novel, with a new introduction by Susan Cheever and cover art that echoes the logo of the musical.
Michael Lichtefeld is choreographer.
The producers are Randall Wreghitt, Dani Davis, Ken Gentry, Chase Mishkin, Worldwide Entertainment, Ruben Brache, Lisa Vioni, Jana Robbins, Addiss Duke Associates in association with John & Danita Thomas, Thomas Keegan, Scott Freiman and Theatre Previews at Duke.
The Virginia Theatre is at 245 W. 52nd Street.