On Thursday, April 14, through Sunday, April 17, Manhattan College Players performed the musical “Little Women,” based off the beloved 19th century book by Louisa May Alcott, for students, faculty and parents.
The show, directed by Martin Marchitto, centered round the four March sisters living in Concord, Mass. during the Civil War and the immediate years after. “There was a lot of research,” Marchitto said. “[Senior] Carlos Perez actually served as a dramaturge and did a lot of research and shared that with the cast. We talked a lot about the book and how the musical really takes the highlights from the book and composes it in quite a beautiful way.”
Because the show was historically based in 19th century America, the cast donned long, full skirts and dapper suits, transporting the audience back in time. “We had to look at each character through a lens of a different period,” Marchitto said. “Before we even started moving around, we brought in rehearsal skirts. They’re wearing those petticoats in rehearsal so they can start to get used to how they move. This is how they dressed in that period, so they need to feel comfortable in that.”
The show starred veteran Players member Jo-Ann Mullooly, who played the lead character of Jo March, the second eldest March sister who provides hope and strength for the March family during this difficult time at war. “She loves writing stories, and the sisters are always performing them up in their attic for fun,” Mullooly said. “While the other sisters love the ideas of attending balls, wearing gowns and getting married, Jo dreams of publishing her stories, earning her own money and traveling to Europe.”
As the character Jo, Mullooly was the dominant force in the musical, having lines in almost every scene with multiple singing solos. Her powerful voice carried across the stage and moved the audience with both spoken and sung lines.
Marchitto, who had worked with Mullooly in the past during the 2014 performance of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” in which Mullooly also starred in, admitted to being slightly upset that Mullooly had not auditioned for last year’s spring musical “Company.”
“I think she is incredibly talented and I was a little disappointed when she didn’t audition last year,” he said. “But I don’t think “Company” was really her type of show.”
However, if there was ever a role for Mullooly to end her Players career with, this was the one.
“This role was practically written for her,” Marchitto said. “This is a mega-role. She had to put a lot of time in, there are so many things in terms of learning the lines, learning the blocking, getting everything to be so specific, getting the music, getting the music cues, listening to other people, I mean it just goes on and on, but she is just absolutely a delight and a joy to work with.”
The musical, which consisted of two separate acts, brought the audience on a roller coaster of emotion. Its historical storyline and strong acting and singing carried the show, while bits of comedic lines and tragic plot twists were sprinkled in.
Although the cast and crew faced a difficult planning and rehearsal schedule, with so many school breaks fragmenting the month of March, Marchitto credits their preparedness and ability to plan ahead for their overall success. “In general, we rehearsed three days a week and we had the whole show staged [before spring break].”
It is clear that this production would not have been possible if it were not for the students involved. “It really is a student-run group,” Marchitto said. “We had a student technical director who worked with me to construct the set. Students helped with hanging and focusing the lights. Liz Corrigan was the prop master, she got the props organized and coordinated. Taylor Hollister actually, besides being the assistant stage manager, was the choreographer. I feel very strongly that when students are interested in doing certain aspects that we allow them to have that opportunity.”
The commitment and dedication of the cast and crew, and the combination of students and brought-in professionals, proved to be the perfect equation for a successful show. The audience was reactive to the plotline, laughing at the comical parts and saddened by the tragic parts.
“I grew up reading ‘Little Women’ and watching the movie and actually playing house with my cousins, so I was really excited to come see it at school,” Hope Miedema, a junior math major and audience member on opening night, said. “I think the best part about it is the singing. We have really great singers on campus, I really had no idea.”
With the last performance happening on Sunday as a matinee, the “Little Women” spring musical season has come to a close. The success of the show was apparent and it was obvious that the student-run group truly challenged themselves with this performance and this decision to do “Little Women.”
Marchitto credits all of the students involved for their great success.
“That’s Players at its best, that it really is student-run and student-motivated. I love coming in and working with them and bringing in the professionals to fill in the holes, like lighting and costume design,” Marichitto said. “There’s a great amount of student commitment. This couldn’t happen without the students.”