Virtue over wealth

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Michelle Possin, playing Jo March, rehearses a scene from Riverland’s “Little Women,” with Taigo Ferreira, who plays Professor Bhaer. --Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Michelle Possin, playing Jo March, rehearses a scene from Riverland’s “Little Women,” with Taigo Ferreira, who plays Professor Bhaer. –Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

The Riverland Theatre Department will close out the 2012-13 season by bringing four beloved sisters to life on stage.

The department will perform a musical rendition of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” in the Frank W. Bridges Theatre at 7:30 p.m. April 25, 26, 27 and May 2,3 and 4, along with a 2 p.m. performance on May 5.

“Fans of ‘Little Women’ who’ve read the book aren’t going to be disappointed,” said Riverland Theatre Department Director Lindsey Williams. “They haven’t made major changes. It’s really true to the story.”

Michelle Possin, playing Jo March, rehearses a scene from Riverland’s “Little Women,” with Taigo Ferreira, who plays Professor Bhaer.

Michelle Possin, playing Jo March, rehearses a scene from Riverland’s “Little Women,” with Taigo Ferreira, who plays Professor Bhaer.

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The story focuses on the March sisters — Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth — and their mother Marmee in Concord, Mass., while their father is away serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. Since the musical remains true to the story, Williams said it will be a treat for fans of the book.

“It think those people are going to love seeing the characters come to life on stage,” she said.

Even though the characters date back 150 years, Williams said many people still hold them dear.

“It’s still so easy to relate to these four young women,” she said.

But, she also urged people who haven’t read the book to come out, too, noting they’ll likely be converted to fans.

“It’s hard not to fall in love with them watching the show,” Williams said.

The musical debuted on Broadway in 2005, but it didn’t have a long run. The play has found more success in colleges and community theaters.

“It’s really kind of having an extended life,” Williams said.

Williams described “Little Women” as a wonderful story with wonderful music. She also said it’s an inspirational and hopeful story.

“It really ends on this uplifting and hopeful note,” she said.

For Williams, the play is a chance to direct a story she has cherished for many years.

“I’ve been a fan of the book since I was a little girl and I read it for the first time,” she said. “It’s just such a classic story.”

The musical version of the story is a little different. The musical version trimmed the story, so Williams said it’s a bit like covering the favorite scenes.

Like the book, the show is set in the 1860s during the Civil War, but Williams said the play has a contemporary feel, in part thanks to the music.

Williams compared “Little Women” to the musical adaptation of “Les Misérables,” which stays true to the history but features more modern music.

“Even though it takes place in the 1800s, the music has sort of a pop Broadway sound to it,” Williams said.

Williams said she loves the Civil War era and that it’s an important part in U.S. history, but noted it’s provided a few challenges for the cast.

The cast has focused on learning about the clothing, social customs — which were more formal and rigid — and mannerisms of the Civil War era. All the women have performed in hoop skirts during rehearsals.

“It changes the way you walk, it changes the way you move, it changes the way you sit down on a chair, so they’ve had to get used to that,” Williams said.

In a way, the performance has become a history lesson for the actors, and Williams said it’s making them appreciate some of the modern conveniences they didn’t have back then.

“It’s always fun being able to step back into an era and kind of relive it,” she said.

For Riverland, the set will be more representational than other performances. They didn’t recreate the full March home, but they used some props with an open stage to offer flexibility. The same space can serve as multiple places in different scenes.

“It gives us a little more flexibility to play with space, with set and with design,” Williams said. “That’s a much more contemporary style of theater.”

Williams urged people to come out and see the classic tale come to life.

“I think it’s going to be just a really, really great show,” Williams said.


Season coming to a close

Looking back over the 2012-13 season, Williams said she was pleased to see the department was able to touch on a variety of eras and performances.

“It’s been such a wide range,” she said. “This is a really fun one to cap the season off because we get to travel to this period in history that we haven’t visited yet.”

When setting up the 2012-13 Riverland season, Williams looked for stories many people are familiar with, but for renditions that add a new twist and tell the story in a unique way.

“People know the movie, but they might not have ever seen the play before,” Williams said. “It might make them kind of look at the movie in a new light.”

The department performed a modern, almost surrealistic re-telling of the Greek myth “Eurydice” to kick off the year. It then did a stage version of the popular film “White Christmas.” Then, the department performed the play “The Philadelphia Story,” which many people know from the film version.

“Little Women” — a musical rendition of a classic novel — fits the season’s theme.

“It just felt like a really good fit for this season,” she said.


Tickets online

“Little Women” will also mark the end of an era, in a way. It’s the last play before tickets become available to purchase online. Starting with Summerset and the full schedule next year, Riverland will begin selling tickets online.

“I think it’s going to make getting tickets easier,” Williams said.

People who prefer to buy tickets in person can still do so, as Riverland will still have tickets available at the box office.


Tickets, please

Who: Riverland Theatre Department

What: “Little Women”

When: 7:30 p.m. April 25, 26, 27 and May 2, 3, 4 and 2 p.m. May 5

Where: Frank W. Bridges Theatre, 1900 Eighth Avenue NW

How much: $15 at the Riverland box office. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, contact the box office at 507-433-0595 or