By The Hilltop News
Thursday, October 5th, marked the opening night of the LaGrange College’s Theater Arts and Musical Theatre Programs’ 2017/2018 season. To celebrate, eager attendees filled the Price Theater to enjoy Little Women: The Musical, the historical spectacular that tapped the talents of many students, including a record number of first-year students. Indeed, the production required countless hours of work to submerge audiences in its story, its period, and its characters’ various conflicts.
The cast and crew of Little Women: The Musical have been preparing the large show since August 17th and their labor included far more than memorizing lines, practicing songs, and hitting their marks. The sets and props must recreate the nineteenth-century theme of the book. According to Ellie Boykin, sophomore theatre major and head of props, “Period shows are always more difficult to do. So much goes into the set.”
The show’s director, Kim Barber Knoll, praised her cast and crew for their investments of time and effort. According to Knoll, the rehearsal schedule was every weeknight from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and every Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. “We spend a lot of time in the building,” she joked.
Additionally, the entire cast and crew participated in tech weekend, the last weekend before opening night, when everyone, including the actors, added the final production elements, including sets and props. On that Saturday and Sunday, the cast and crew worked both days, some for as many as twelve hours.
“We call them ten out of twelve in the theater,” Knoll said.
By the opening night, many members of the cast and the crew had taken part in as many as thirty-nine rehearsals.
Furthermore, a significant portion of that rehearsal time was devoted to simply changing clothes. Savannah Hicks, a freshman working as the costume mistress, stressed the importance of the cast’s costuming and the challenges of the show’s many costume swaps. “They have twenty seconds to complete full costume changes,” she said. During the performance, cast can be seen running off the stage and quickly returning for the next act in completely different attire. One such act requires full traditional dresses to be traded in for casual winter apparel in a mere minute.
Based on Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel, Little Women: The Musical explores the travails of the March family, who struggles without their father during the Civil War. The play’s main character is the tomboyish Jo March, played by Kelsey Seals, a senior in the LaGrange College theatre program. Jo wants to become a world-renowned author and travel the world. Marmee March, played by Elyse Barnett, works diligently to help keep the family afloat. Aunt March, played by Anna Courtney, teaches the March girls about etiquette and society. Both Marmee and Aunt March humorously play their roles as the adults of the house. The jealous youngest sister, Amy, is played by Abby Young. The hesitant yet love-filled Meg is played by Laine Fletcher. And the supportive and caring Beth is played by Leigh Anne Hamlin.
Ellie Boykin praised the production crew, specifically its first-year students. In regards to how the theatre arts and musical theatre programs involve first-year students, Boykin said, “LaGrange College is special.”
Contributions from new students promise to improve each program after this production, as well. “The Freshmen class has helped [musical theatre] double in size,” Boykin said.
Kim Barber Knoll could not be more pleased with the experience of directing and producing Little Women: The Musical. She believes it is a prime example of what distinguishes LaGrange College’s performing arts community.
“The reason our productions are unique,” she said, “is the collaboration between our theatre arts, music, and musical theatre programs.”
Little Women: The Musical still has tickets available for its final showings this homecoming weekend. Showings will be Thursday, October 19th, Friday, October 20th, and Saturday, October 21st. All of the remaining shows begin at 7:30 p.m on the Price Theater’s main stage.
Reporting for this piece was provided by Gabriel Griffith, a first-year student in Dr. Justin Thurman’s First Year Composition and Journalism course.