Will Sutton Foster Play American Heroine Jo March in Musical Little Women?

News   Will Sutton Foster Play American Heroine Jo March in Musical Little Women? Since the moment Sutton Foster made a splash in Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie, snagging the 2002 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, fans have wondered what might be next for the big new voice in American musical theatre.
Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster

It's dawning now that Foster is discussions to play one of the beloved characters in American fiction (or at least young people's fiction): Jo March of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."

Dani Davis, one of the producers of the new Broadway aimed musical confirmed that she and her producing partners are "in discussions" with Foster. The actress' agent reportedly confirmed the talks to Newsday, as well.

Foster continues to wow 'em as Millie at the Marquis Theatre. This spring will mark the second anniversary of the Jeanine Tesori-Dick Scanlan show based on the film of the same name.

Little Women has a book by Allan Knee, score by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. Susan Schulman (The Secret Garden) will direct.

* As previously reported on Playbill On-Line, Little Women will sing on Broadway in late 2004 after tryouts in North Carolina and New Haven.

The Broadway target is December 2004, eight months later than expected, with the brood of singing siblings led by golden-throated Maureen McGovern as Marmee.

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 (rather than an announced January-March tryout period), 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 is an American literary title so obvious that it's a surprise that a musical version hasn't hit big on Broadway yet. 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).

Foster wasn't available for the early 2004 dates, and for a time the producers continued to look beyond Foster in order to make good on the January-February 2004 promise at Theater Previews at Duke in Durham, NC, and March 2004 in New Haven, followed by April 2004 on Broadway.

"I must tell you, we never anticipated that this situation might be cause for delay," producer Dani Davis previously 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."

Autumn runs in North Carolina and New Haven are expected to precede the Broadway bow; the production plan is simply shifting from winter-spring 2004 to late summer-fall 2004.

"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.

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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 penned the play Syncopation.

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.