Little Women Still Planning for the Big Time

News   Little Women Still Planning for the Big Time After a sold-out, workshop run at Durham, North Carolina's Duke University, Little Women is now in the "what's next?" stage. Though no firm plans for Broadway or out-of-town have been decided, the producers do hope to see the show running in New York in the 2001-02 season.

After a sold-out, workshop run at Durham, North Carolina's Duke University, Little Women is now in the "what's next?" stage. Though no firm plans for Broadway or out-of-town have been decided, the producers do hope to see the show running in New York in the 2001-02 season.

Little Women, a musical adaptation of Louis May Alcott's novel that nearly made it to Broadway this season, played Feb. 8-18 in a workshop production at Duke. All performances at the 100-seat, black-box Sheafer Theatre in the Bryan Center were sold out, according to Duke spokesperson Anna Upchurch (reached Feb. 6).

"Everyone learned a lot," NYC production spokesperson Michael Hartman told Playbill On-Line (April 5). "And the show continues to develop."

Kerry O'Malley, a Duke alumnus, played Jo in the NC mounting show. She, Robert Bartley (as John Brooke), Megan McGinnis (as Beth), Joe Machota (as Laurie) and Robert Stattel (as Mr. Laurence) all also participated in April 6-8 readings of the piece. (Several other actors in those readings, including Jan Maxwell [The Dinner Party] and John Dossett [The Adventures of Tom Sawyer], had other commitments and couldn't stay with the show. ) New names in the cast included Catherine Brunnel (as Amy), Mary Gordon Murray (as Marmee) and Rachel Hardin (as Meg). Veteran actress Jane Connell had been announced as Aunt March, but the role was played by Rita Gardner, an original cast member of The Fantasticks. Allen Fitzpatrick played Professor Bhaer. No word on how many of these cast-members will still be on board for the eventual commercial production.

Little Women is directed by Nick Corley and choreographed by Jennifer Paulson Lee. The show had been all set for Broadway this fall but then stalled in Boston and underwent a creative overhaul. Writer Allan Knee and new songwriters Jason Howland (music) and Mindi Dickstein (lyrics) tried to put a revised version of the show together in time to open this season, but there were too many creative and business details to sort out (not to mention a traffic jam of shows already booked into existing Broadway venues). Little Women had been announced for a Sept. 22-Oct. 8 tryout at Boston's Wilbur Theatre and a late-fall opening at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway, but that was put off owing to business details of the changeover from one songwriting team (Kim Oler and Allison Hubbard) to another (Howland and Dickstein).

Still, the work on Little Women continued, and the show workshopped at Duke as part of the school's Theatre Previews at Duke (which also developed the Broadway-bound A Thousand Clowns and the nearly-made-it-to-Broadway Birdy). Commercial producers Dani Davis (a Duke alumnus), Randall L. Wreghitt and Ken Gentry are overseeing the project. Wreghitt was a producer of Off-Broadway's The Waverly Gallery and an associate producer of Broadway's The Real Thing.

Theatre Previews' managing director Zannie Voss told Playbill On-Line in December 2000, "The focus of this workshop will be to develop and test new material and to polish the flow of the piece."

— By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones