The March sisters are coming to Broad Brook Opera House

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
East Windsor - posted Wed., Aug. 31, 2011
'Little Women' opens on Friday, Sept. 9, at the Broad Brook Opera House. (L-r) Kiernan Rushford as Beth, Jessica Frye as Amy, Donna Schilke as Marmee, Elizabeth Drevits as Meg and Meagan Hayes as Jo. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
'Little Women' opens on Friday, Sept. 9, at the Broad Brook Opera House. (L-r) Kiernan Rushford as Beth, Jessica Frye as Amy, Donna Schilke as Marmee, Elizabeth Drevits as Meg and Meagan Hayes as Jo. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel "Little Women" will come to life in musical form at the Broad Brook Opera House beginning Sept. 9. The classic story follows Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy - the March sisters - and their mother, Marmee, as they look after each other while their father is away fighting in the Civil War.

The 11-member cast auditioned in May, took a short break, then kept a rigorous six-week rehearsal schedule to be ready for opening night.

“I have an incredibly great cast that works very hard,” said Director John Pike. This is Pike’s first time to direct at Broad Brook. “They are all absolutely appropriate for their roles.”

Meagan Hayes, who plays Jo, said she can definitely relate to her character. Hayes describes Jo as loud, not caring what anyone thinks, saying also, “she needs to be useful and help other people. She has an energy about her that never goes away.”

“I relate to her a lot, even down to her short temper,” Hayes said. “This is the role I feel I was born to play, and the role I fit the most.”

Hayes, whose credits include Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" and the witch in "Into the Woods," studied musical theater for a brief time before deciding to become a pastry chef. Theater has now become a hobby for her.

The same is true of Kiernan Rushford, who plays Beth in the show. A stay-at-home mother of two, Rushford acted in college and has played Louise in "Gypsy" and Roxie Hart in "Chicago."

Rushford was introduced to "Little Women" as a young girl. “It’s a family tradition that you receive the book at 10 years old,” she said.

Much of the cast knew the story of the March sisters before the show - Pike said he was about the only one who had yet to read the book. As the only male on the artistic staff, he feels he was able to offer a different perspective.

As novels go, "Little Women" can be daunting. Alcott’s 1868 classic spans several years, during which the four sisters grow and mature. Capturing that for the stage is challenging, so before beginning rehearsals, the cast met to work through the script and discuss the storyline.

“It’s hard to take such a long novel and condense it,” Rushford said.

Hayes said that while the book was intense, the original musical was much simpler, so the cast worked to balance their approach.

Jessica Frye, who plays Amy, said her character was one piece that needed balancing, as Amy was written very one-sided in the musical.

Another challenge the cast was presented with was playing roles much younger than their actual ages.

When the story begins, Frye’s character is 12 and 13. “I’m only going to be 21, but I was such a different 13,” Frye said. She found it much easier to play 17-year-old Amy toward the end of the show.

Though Rushford’s character is also a young teenager, she found Beth somewhat easier to portray.

“She seems to be kind of an old soul,” Rushford said.

Pike said the Broad Brook production will use projections to help the audience travel through the extended time period, as well as the varied settings. He also said that while the show is family-friendly - the book itself is popular among young girls - the cast is not treating it as a children’s story.

“There are serious issues the family deals with,” Pike said.

"Little Women" runs for three consecutive weekends, opening Friday, Sept. 9, and closing Sunday, Sept. 25. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For tickets, visit www.operahouseplayers.org or www.click4tix.com.
 


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