Most top-ten lists of queer feminist authors don’t mention Louisa May Alcott, and Little Women is better remembered as a quaint account of feminine domesticity than the subtle revolution that it is: the story of sisters in a wartime household headed by their mother that includes but does not focus on their relationships with men. At the center of the narrative is Jo—an impassioned author of hilariously melodramatic thrillers who won’t bow to fashion or tradition as she drives and then chronicles the escapades of the March girls. Lest this make Little Women the Musical, with music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and book by Allan Knee, sound like a didactic snore, rest assured: it is an absolute delight. In Brown Paper Box Co.’s wonderful production, directed by Stephanie Rohr and M. William Panek, romantic Meg, headstrong Jo, sweet Beth, and vain Amy come to life with beautiful, believable intimacy on Strawdog’s storefront stage.
The Brown Paper Box cast is a dream. Not only can they sing, they portray the affection, joys, frustrations, and hopes of these women with authenticity and rapport. Tessa Dettman is a charismatic Jo with a powerhouse set of pipes, and Kim Green’s pouting Amy has the nuance to make the ambitions of the youngest and most overlooked of the sisters understood. Will Kazda is ditzy and fun as their neighbor Laurie. And among the most distinct pleasures of this production is hearing every voice unamplified, accompanied only by a single piano (played by Justin Harner). v