Director Susan H. Schulman and producers Randall L. Wreghitt, Dani Davis and Ken Gentry chose to bump the planned out-of-town trajectory — North Carolina and then New Haven — to start September 2004, followed by a Broadway bow around the holidays. The reason was simple: The actress they hope to play lead sister, Jo March, isn't available until September 2004.
Little Women, an American literary title so obvious that it's a surprise that a musical version hasn't hit big on Broadway yet, has book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. The work is based on Louisa May Alcott's classic Civil War-era novel for young people.
All roles but Jo — the Massachusetts sister who longs to be a writer — have been cast for the staging. In addition to famed singer-actress McGovern (known for pop hits, concerts, musicals and studio-cast recordings of Of Thee I Sing and Let 'Em Eat Cake), the Little Women company will include Janet Carroll as Aunt March, John Hickok (Aida) as Professor Bhaer, Danny Gurwin (The Thing About Men) as Laurie, Jim Weitzer as John Brooke, Robert Stattel as Mr. Laurence, Amy Rutberg as Meg, Megan McGinnis (Belle in Beauty and the Beast) as Beth, Amy McAlexander as Amy, with Christopher Gunn, Larisa Shukiss, Julie Foldesi, Andrew Varela and Anne Kanengeiser.
Michael Lichtefeld is choreographer, Andrew Wilder is musical director, orchestrations are by Kim Scharnberg. Designers are Derek McLane (set), Catherine Zuber (costume), David Lander (lighting) and Tony Meola (sound).
Simply put, the actress the producers wanted wasn't available for the early 2004 dates — January-February 2004 at Theater Previews at Duke in Durham, NC, and March 2004 in New Haven, followed by April 2004 on Broadway. Casting continued, but they didn't find another Jo. "I must tell you, we never anticipated that this situation might be cause for delay," producer Dani Davis told Playbill On-Line. " I think all producers anticipate the usual delays — lack of theater, lack of funds. As these were not issues for us, we kept pressing on, thinking, 'Our Jo will walk through the door.' Without a Jo, we really needed to make a decision — without a Jo, it was obviously not going to happen in this time frame."
Runs in North Carolina and New Haven are expected to precede the Broadway bow.
"I am always impressed by 'Team Little Women,' but I am really amazed at the team's desire to do the best for the show at every moment, even if it means waiting another several months," Davis said. "I am most impressed by our director, Susan Schulman, at the helm — she knows what is important, and she will not compromise. We will wait for our star."
Tony Award-nominee Susan H. Schulman staged Broadway's Sweeney Todd in revival, The Secret Garden, and the recent revival of The Sound of Music.
Capitalization for Little Women is at $5.6 million.
This version of the 1868 Louisa May Alcott novel of New England sisters in Civil War times has been in the works for the past five years. Allan Knee (Syncopation) penned the book, and the score is by Jason Howland (music) and Mindi Dickstein (lyrics).
Industry folk recall that another songwriting team (Kim Oler and Allison Hubbard) was attached at the beginning. Their work on it was seen in at least one public reading in New York City. The producers of Little Women kept Knee as librettist, and invited Howland and Dickstein aboard. Oler and Hubbard are now working on a musical version of The Enchanted Cottage.
Little Women had a sold-out February 2001 workshop run at Theatre Previews at Duke. Kerry O'Malley, a Duke alumnus, played Jo in the North Carolina mounting of the 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, 2001, readings of the piece.
Schulman became attached as director in mid 2001.