After a sold-out, February workshop run at Durham, North Carolina's Duke University, the once — and likely still — Broadway-bound musical Little Women has moved forward a notch, with director Susan H. Schulman (Violet) officially signing on to the project. Though no firm plans for Broadway or out-of-town have been decided, librettist Allan Knee told Playbill On-Line (Oct. 26) the show is eyeing an out of town try-out "maybe in fall 2002" before a subsequent Broadway launch.
Back in July, Knee had said the tentative plan was to bring the show to "one of seven regional theatres the producers are looking at a year from now, and then bring it to New York." Commercial producers Dani Davis (a Duke alumnus), Randall L. Wreghitt, Rodger Hess, Dani Davis 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.
Knee told PBOL the show is being revised and that, "The producers want the script done as soon as possible. They want to do a private reading of the first act — which is really the hardest act — in a few weeks."
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 Jennifer Gambatese, Becky Watson, 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. 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). 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