When choosing the first Servant Stage production of 2017, artistic director Wally Calderon and executive director Johnathan Bauer looked to the organization's stated goals for guidance. "Our mission statement says to inspire, to challenge, (and) to educate, so we thought, 'What are some titles that can do all of that?'" said Calderon.
Bauer and Calderon found the answer in the Broadway musical "Little Women," based on the Louisa May Alcott book of the same name. The show will be staged at Lancaster Alliance Church, 210 Pitney Road, Lancaster, on two consecutive weekends, including Fridays, March 3 and 10, at 7 p.m.; Saturdays, March 4 and 11, at 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m.; and Sundays, March 5 and 12, at 3:30 p.m.
The story begins in New York, with Jo March, played by Danielle Pozanovic, receiving yet another rejection from a publisher. As she explains the plot of her tale to Professor Bhaer, played by Andrew Zahn, her story begins to come to life on the stage behind them. Soon, the audience and Jo are transported to 1863 when she and her sisters, Amy, played by Grace Atherholt; Meg, played by Leslie Talley; and Beth, played by Heather Nicole, are planning a show to enliven Christmas during the Civil War. The girls and their mother, Marmee, played by Renee Markell, are struggling to weather the winter with Mr. March away serving the Union troops as an Army chaplain. The story follows the members of the March family as they become better acquainted with their neighbors, Mr. Laurence, played by Jon Rider, and his grandson, Laurie, played by Stephen Baker, and Laurie's tutor, John Brooke, played by Matthew Wilhelm. Aunt March, played by Donna Schilke, appears and reappears in the girls' lives, often on a quest to make a proper lady of endearingly rebellious Jo.
Lauding the talents of his small cast, Calderon noted that the group rose easily to the challenge of the show. "I wanted strong actors who could sing and move and be able to ride the emotional wave of this show, (which) requires endurance and a deep well of talent in terms of acting and dissecting the characters," said Calderon. "It was great discussion ... sitting down and discussing the characters with each of (the actors) and their growth through the show - that's where the fun comes in."
With approximately 20 musical numbers, the show is challenging vocally as well as dramatically. The music reflects the mood as the script alternates between lighthearted and serious moments, such as when the March girls run off to practice a play while Marmee sings "Here Alone" about missing her husband. A moment of levity occurs when Aunt March sings "Could You?" with Jo, requesting that Jo become a lady, while promising her a trip to Europe. The score calls for musical director and accompanist Kendra Bigley to meet the demands of underscoring the drama as well as supplying the music for the many vocal numbers.
The set for the show has been kept intentionally simple as it serves as the March home, the Marches' attic, Aunt March's house, a stage for a swashbuckling swordfight, and a dance floor.
Calderon was not familiar with the show prior to considering it for Servant Stage, but once he was introduced to the coming-of-age musical, he was sold. "As soon as I heard the (music) and saw (the show), I said, 'Yes,'" he noted.
Reserved tickets are required for the shows at Lancaster Alliance Church. Readers who wish to purchase tickets may do so by donation at http://www.ServantStageCompany.com or by calling 603-247-4493. The show is sponsored by Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community.