After a sold-out, February workshop run at Durham, North Carolina's Duke University, the once — and likely still — Broadway-bound musical Little Women remains in the "what's next?" stage. Though no firm plans for Broadway or out-of-town have been decided, librettist Allan Knee told Playbill On-Line the show is now probably a year away from production.
At this point, the tentative plan is to bring the show to "one of seven regional theatres the producers are looking at," said Knee, "a year from now, and then bring it to New York." Sources close to the production say Susan H. Schulman is in serious negotiations to direct, though her reps at ICM add that she has "a whole bunch of projects up in the air," including a current stint staging Man of La Mancha in Australia and potential projects such as HeartLand and a NYC remount of the Fiddler on the Roof she staged at Canada's Stratford Festival in 2000.
Little Women, a musical adaptation of Louis May Alcott's novel that nearly made it to Broadway last 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.
"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. Until a director is set, there's no word on how many of these cast-members would still be on board for the eventual commercial production. Designers Derek McClane (set) and Ann Roth (costumes) are expected to stay with the show. At Duke, Little Women was directed by Nick Corley and choreographed by Jennifer Paulson Lee. The show had been all set for Broadway last fall but then stalled in Boston and underwent a creative overhaul. Writer 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 current A Thousand Clowns revival and the nearly-made-it-to-Broadway Birdy). Commercial producers Dani Davis (a Duke alumnus), Randall L. Wreghitt, Ken Gentry and Rodger Hess 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.
While he waits for Little Women to make the big move, author Knee continues to hope for an Off-Broadway break for his romantic comedy, Syncopation, which has its backing (Ted Tulchin and Kenneth Waissman) and director (Pamela Berlin) but can't yet find an appropriate, available theatre.
— By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones