xFighting Chance Productions in association with Renegade Arts Company
Little Women based on the semi-autobiographical novel of Louisa May Alcott

Dates and Venue December 4 - 21 | Studio 1398, Granville Island

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

By now, myriad dramatic representations of the life-long saga of Marmee March (Jennifer Long) and her four girls have made Little Women the stuff of legend. Along comes Fighting Chance Productions and the Renegade Arts Company with yet another musical rendition of this estrogen-driven tale of angst and melodrama.

Ryan Mooney has assembled a mixture of greater and lesser lights, and like the odd appointment of divan, wingback and rustic tickle-trunk that constitute his sparse set, his principals make due with such skills as they have—or have not.

Jo March (Julie Casselman) is the dynamo of the March family, the writer with the vivid imagination, and she convinces her sisters they must make a pact to stick together always. Naturally, women have a way of going off and getting married. Mr Brooke (Mark Kroeker) soon ends up marrying Meg (Robin Eder-Warren); later, the boy-next-door Laurie (Kyle Oliver) – who had first asked Jo -- marries Amy (Roan Shankaruk). And eventually Jo finds a ying-yang kind of happiness in the arms of her German tutor, Professor Bhaer (Andrew Wade).

There are plenty of solos and duets throughout, and the singing ranges from mediocre to inspired. Kyle Oliver sings a song called “Amazing” that simply wasn’t. Jennifer Long is at times during her opening solo barely audible over Clare Wyatt’s outstanding piano work (Katie Stewart follows along admirably on violin).

Julie Casselman is a capable singer, carrying much of the show on her own, but she works against herself most when she is at the upper end of her register, belting out the bravado, bravura, or bluster—depending upon how you perceive her heroic timbre’s rise and fall. Perhaps most cloying is the sentimental farewell kite-building scene with Beth (Danielle Melvin) whose tender portrayal of a goodbye-girl must have brought tears to more than a few eyes in the audience.

Clearly, Robin Eder-Warren is the stand-out performer in this tea-totalling toast to maudlin melodrama. She is the type of singer whose lovely soaring soprano notes elevate all others around her and bring the level of entertainment up to a far higher standard than one might suppose possible in such company.

There are no better, and others unnamed are far worse. But it is worth the price of admission to hear Ms. Casselman over-reach her expectations and to enjoy the range and depth of Ms. Eder-Warren.

© 2014 Roger Wayne Eberle