Anything But Little: A Review of Jacobs High School’s Bold Take on Little Women

Sydney Blake

Upon watching Jacobs High School’s rendition of Little Women, I was left with a feeling between it being “Astonishing” and that “if [it] could change there is so much [it] could achieve. In time [it] could succeed and travel very far indeed”. Little Women the broadway musical is a coming of age story of friendship, adversity, loss, success, and above all family. The eldest daughter Jo March, who was played beautifully by Sydney Olson, and her four other sisters, embark on a journey of self discovery as they try to find their way in a complicated life while trying to stick together. When misfortune strikes at all angles with their father becoming ill, Aunt March’s unrealistic expectations of Jo depleting a chance at traveling around Europe, Jo’s best friend Laurie Laurance moving away, Jo’s constant rejections with publication and the death of her sister, Beth March, the bond of the sisters was tested repeatedly. Even though it didn’t turn out as Jo had planned, the play ended with Jo’s publication and the celebration of Laurie and Amy March’s wedding where the family is once again back together stronger than ever.

The story’s fire was fueled by Jo March’s tenacity and spunk which could be quite hard to mimic but not for Sydney Olson. There could not have been a better person to play the lead Jo March. She brought a light to the character that really set her apart from the rest of the cast and you could tell that Olson poured her heart into the character. On the other hand, Elise Bessemer did a wonderful portrayal of Aunt March. She fit the part and did a great job with expression and maintained the love/hate balance Aunt March had with the audience. 


The cast not only could act but had strong vocals that contributed to the presence of each character. There was passion and emotion in each song that pulled each audience member in. Jennifer Parker (vocal director) should be proud of how the songs added to the flow of the plot and helped express the mood of each scene. For instance, Mr. Laurence came off as a grumpy, old man but when Caleb Hansen started singing “Off to Massachusetts” with Jolie Swanson who plays innocent Beth March, the melody and light-heartedness perfectly translates into the mood of the scene and added deeper layers to Mr. Laurence. The music was very well done. However, the microphones had some issues and at times the words seemed muffled and hard to make out. This took away the element of assertiveness some characters such as Jo March needed during the play.

David McGill (artistic director) along with members of the scenic design and costumes should be proud of the work with the artistic component of Little Women. With both the costumes and the set, came a sort of simplicity that added to the plot and characters in the play. The March family are expected to be simple and act simple. The clothing and housing (or lack thereof) showed the simplicity of their appearance and the ease of their relationship. When it came to what was on the inside, however, it was more complicated than it seemed. Each daughter had a mind of her own and their personalities were reflected by their costume. Jo tended to wear more straightforward and bold clothing because that was who she was while Amy wore more frilly and acceptable costumes because she was one to want to fit more into society. The house, while it didn’t look completely finished and being able to see the supports along the bar, allowed for a feeling that the audience was glimpsing into their lives. The set really epitomized the unconventional attitude the Marchs had where everyone expected it to be clean cut and finished but its simplicity added more character and in turn made the person, the plot, and the set even more complicated and deep.

While there were many great elements to the performance of Little Women, it could have been better. Some of the pit orchestra giggled or wasn’t focused during the play. For the pit being in front of the stage, it was often distracting when this occurred and took away from the professionalism of the musical. What also took away from the strong acting was the fact that the theater doors were open the entire time allowing the hallway light and noise to disrupt the performance. And while this couldn’t be helped by the cast, the musical of Little Women was pretty dull. Even as someone who has never read the book or seen the recent movie adaptation, I could tell that this story was not one that should have been made into a musical. I felt lost more than once during the play and there was not a consistent enticing element that I could rely on to pull me back in when I got bored. For a production that’s audience consists of children, Little Women would not be able to maintain the attention of small children.

Overall, Jacobs High School’s Little Women was a wonderful high school production with aspiring actors. And that’s what it was after all, a high school production. Of course it had some flaws but it was mostly great material. Jacobs High School made the most of a dull play and actually executed it fairly well. The strength lied with the performance of its actors especially Sydney Olson as well as the direction of David McGill and Jennifer Parker. Everyone who was part of this production should be proud of their hard work especially for the acting, vocals, costumes and set design. While this was not my cup of tea, Jacobs High School’s Little Women was a decent play. I would recommend the play but suggest reading up on the premise or getting background knowledge of the storyline before seeing it which would make for a more interesting time. You might even find it “Astonishing”.