Review by Ashlynn Fuhrmann, William Henry Harrison High School Critic Team
The scratch of a quill, a stroke of a brush, a musical note being played, a dab of blush wafts in the air, this could only be Saint Ursula Academy's "astonishing" production of Little Women.
Based on the classic novel of the same name, Little Women tells the beloved story of Jo, Amy, Meg, and Beth March as they navigate life during and post Civil War. Opening on Broadway in 2005, this enchanting story never fails to captivate audiences of all ages through its powerful storytelling, moving songs, and dynamic characters.
Saint Ursula Academy's production of Little Women brilliantly executed the powerful vocals and complex storytelling of this show. The gorgeous mood toned lighting, as well as the beautiful sets led to an outstanding and enjoyable production.
Momo Greenwell skillfully brought Jo's independent and wild spirit to life through her terrific stage presence and larger than life personality. But through it all, Greenwell never let this sense of adventure overshadow Jo's true emotions and brought these raw feelings to center stage in songs such as the heartbreaking ballad, "The Fire Within Me." And by Jo's side through it all was the shy but daring Laurie (Patrick O'Leary). O'Leary never failed to make the audience laugh through his awkward nature of attempting to woo Jo and expertly brought their friendship to light, supporting her seemingly crazy dreams.
And completing the brilliant quartet of March Sisters was Anya Sperber (Amy), Emily Schuermann (Meg), and Lily Anderson (Beth). The three had outstanding chemistry, never failing to gracefully display the ups and downs of sisterhood. Anderson also left a lasting impression as she succumbed to sickness as the show went on in the song "Somethings are Meant to Be". Also alongside Jo was her companion Professor Bhaer, played by Preston Marx. Marx's gorgeous and balanced vocal tone left a sense of wonder in the air as he delved deep into Bhaer's emotions for Jo, leading to him traveling to her home.
Further enhancing this enjoyable production was Julia Koch, Kelly O'Connor, and Reagan Sauer's terrific lighting design. The bold lighting to represent different emotions brought the storybook element of the show to life, helping to support character choices being made on stage. We also see Hailey Heidrich, Lorelei Anello, and Lia Stanton's beautiful and aesthetic logo. The pastel colors and visual images to represent each sister helped to greet the audience with an understanding of their family dynamic before the show even begins.
This magnificent show was a difficult one to tackle with its emotional complexity and compelling vocals, but Saint Ursula Academy made it "the most amazing thing," leading to an enjoyable and moving performance.
Review by Gabby Fronk, Loveland High School Critic Team
From wholesome to heartbreaking, Saint Ursula Academy's Little Women truly captured the importance of family and self-reliance.
Based on Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women tells the story of the four March sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, as they navigate the myriad of changes that come with growing up and discovering one's true self. Set during the Civil War, Jo narrates her and her family's experiences as they face the trials and challenges of the world they live in. With interesting costumes, a talented cast, and passion united; Saint Ursula Academy made this version of Little Women completely their own.
The relationships the characters build with each other during the show are a crucial part of what makes the story work, and the entire cast captured this and executed a very recognizable companionship that wasn't lost on anyone. This chemistry paired with steadfast technical elements created a truly immersive production and an overall exemplary show.
Jo March, played by Momo Greenwell, is a stubborn, headstrong, and imaginative character, relying on only herself to achieve her goals. Greenwell did a fantastic job of bringing Jo's personality to life, especially through her physicality. Not only was Greenwell a fantastic actor, but her vocals were exceptional as well. The audience was enthralled during her performance. Likewise, Amy March, played by Anya Sperber, was truly brought to life by her performance. The youngest of the sisters, Amy is loud, and self-absorbed, but also caring as she looks up to her sisters, especially Jo. Sperber expertly navigates Amy's character development throughout the show, a testament to her skills as an actor. From her loud but child-like voice to her portrayal of youngest sibling rants, Sperber's performance was absolutely captivating.
Although the story revolves around the March sisters, many other characters played an important role in the production. Professor Bhaer, played by Preston Marx, was a foil to Jo and her love interest. He is a smart but seemingly quiet man with strong beliefs and a caring nature. Marx's performance was truly one to remember as his portrayal of the character was truly his own.
The technical elements of the show are not to be forgotten either. Thanks to the work of Natalie Hein, Kendra Kalbli, Katie Mundy, and Evalyn Reichard; the stage managers, all of the scene changes were executed with smooth and organized efficiency.
Overall, the passion and love the students in this production exhibited was not lost in their performance. Staying true to one of the show's many messages, Saint Ursula Academy's Little Women captured what it means to stick together, and just how important family is.
Review by Helena Hennessy, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
Little Women is a story of sisterhood, growing up, and discovering oneself; Saint Ursula Academy's production of Little Women: The Musical fulfilled that, wholeheartedly.
Written as an autobiographical, yet partially fictional, novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women explores four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. It follows these girls, but specifically Jo, as we see their journeys of leaving their childhood behind and growing up. The musical adaptation, written by Allan Knee in 1999, has become renowned for its genuine take on the original story, with additions that delve further into character's internal struggles.
Saint Ursula Academy's rendition of this show sparked utter joy and empathy, as their portrayals of the sisters rained entirely genuine and raw, displaying every emotion, from ones of pure desperation to complete bliss. Their historically true set and costume designs transported this production from modern day to Civil War era Massachusetts.
Momo Greenwell, as Jo March, took on this complex role with zest and a spark in her heart. Her unadulterated enthusiasm shined as she depicted Jo's unrelenting determination with passion, especially within her mesmerizing vocals throughout "Astonishing." Her prioritization of physical acting, though every awkward twiddle, from grabbing at her dress to throwing around her arms, furthered the perception of Jo being "out of place." Throughout vulnerable scenes, Greenwell revealed a new side of Jo, one of weakness. This directly contrasted her prior performance and showed immense versatility and skill within her ability to portray a vastly multifaceted character. Theodore Laurence III, Laurie, played by Patrick O'Leary, also showed prominent, multidimensional acting. Throughout Laurie's journey, he longs for companionship. He finds this within Jo, to which he proceeds to pine over her, however, everything comes crashing down when Laurie proposes, and Jo runs off. O'Leary effortlessly switches his demeanor within this scene, as absolute heartbreak is painted on his face. His once sweet disposition is now in the rearview, as he emotionally breaks into and accepts the feelings of betrayal. As Laurie moves on, and finds a new love, O'Leary's tone throughout "The Most Amazing Thing" reveals that he has reverted to his once hopeful persona.
Anya Sperber played the complicated role of Amy March with versatility. She showcased Amy's stubborn nature and sometimes selfish intentions at the forefront, but nonetheless, the true cause of this, deep rooted insecurity, and the yearning for a sense of belonging, seeped through the cracks of her performance beautifully. The seemingly simple character of Beth March was thoughtfully approached by Lily Anderson. Known to be the quiet one, Beth can be presumed to be an easy role to take on, but her story has a much greater impact, as Beth tragically passes away. Anderson's heartfelt and nuanced duet with Greenwell, "Some Things Are Meant to Be," slipped into a state of melancholia, as Beth and Jo spent their last, serene, moment together. Anderson explored the gentle sincerity of Beth March with ever-present care.
Acute detail is shown within stylistic choices; each sister's wardrobe is pertained to individual color palettes, decision by Julia Biernat, Kali Boeing, Madeline Bruns, Julia Carl, and Camille Scolio, as well as hairdo switches from act one to two to represent the girls' personal evolutions, idea from Elizabeth Cho, Sofia DeJesus, Ava Heffernan, Bella Roda, and Carly Shaw.
The gentle approach to the relationship between the March sisters, their growing up, and the ideology of femininity led Saint Ursula Academy's production to beauty; it's heart on display and personality to be discovered.
Excerpts From Other Top Reviews
"With a run time of nearly three hours and difficult vocals galore, performing Little Women is no small feat, but the cast took on the challenge with gusto. Leading lady Momo Greenwell ceaselessly engaged the audience as Jo March. Greenwell's performance in the act one finale "Astonishing," in which she musters the courage to pursue writing after receiving an unwanted marriage proposal, was a highlight of the production. March Sisters Beth (Lily Anderson), Meg (Amy Schuermann), and Amy (Anya Sperber) acted their roles well, displaying nuanced understandings of their characters and development, and created a believable sisterly dynamic."
-Katie Berich, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"One of Jo's most beloved family members, her mother Marmee, played by Maya Chavez, contributed to the show greatly with astounding vocals. Her haunting sincerity as her voice lifted across the theatre unveiled her character in an entirely new way to the audience, especially in songs like "Here Alone," and "Days of Plenty," which were beautifully poignant and electrifying all at once. In addition to Maya Chavez, Preston Marx, who played Professor Bhaer, also shocked the audience with his vocals and lovable character. He wonderfully embodied a calm and refined professor, while also managing to be awkward and relatable all at once."
-Ali Lewis, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
"The lighting and costumes in this production added more variety and excitement to the scenes. The lighting crew, Julia Koch, Kelly O'Connor, and Raegan Sauer, used different colors and effects to set the mood of each scene and better convey the emotions of the characters. Costume department members, such as Madeline Bruns, created historically accurate and detailed outfits that completed the overall look and feel of the show."
-Alexandra Hess, Campbell County High School Critic Team
"Maya Chavez as Marmee brought wisdom beyond her years as a motherly figure to the March sisters. In contrast, Anya Sperber as Amy March portrayed emotional development as the audience watched her journey from a left-out youngest sister to a grown-up married woman. Sperber played well into the adolescence of the character while still showing motivations behind her childish acts. TJ McGrath as John Brooke also showed vocal clarity and the character's supporting nature."
-Grace Rudie, Ursuline Academy Critic Team
"Of course, the story could not be told without its Storytellers ensemble. The hilarious skit performed from one of Jo's many stories, "An Operatic Tragedy," received giggles all around and was one of the most entertaining facets of the show. Camille Roman's silly performance as Braxton was one not to forget, as well as Clarissa and Rodrigo's outstanding vocals. Speaking of vocals, Preston Marx, playing Professor Bhaer, implemented gorgeous belts on stage. His voice carried across the theater, and his accent/impression was quite impressive."
-Estrella Soriano, William Henry Harrison High School Critic Team
"The key technical aspect that tied the whole show together was the intentionality behind the costuming. While working with beautiful period pieces, Julia Biernat and crew used cool tones for Jo's dresses in contrast with her sister's warm toned ones, making her stand out more. Moreover, Julia Koch and crew's work on lighting helped match the emotions on stage. With blue lighting during Jo's key emotional scenes and pink lighting in romantic ones (such as Delighted), the lighting paralleled the energy on stage."
-Tricia Halili-Felse, Loveland High School Critic Team
"In conclusion, this production of Little Women: The Musical not only incorporated vocals and catchy tunes, but also spirited expressions and impressive technical aspects. They brought the audience a classic tale with a few key mischievous twists that revealed themes dipped in romance, the art of storytelling, and most important of all, sisterhood."
-Charlotte Weghorst, Highlands High School Critic Team