Jacobs High School's 'Little Women' adds modern music to classic tale

  • Jacobs High School in Algonquin will present a musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" Feb. 13-16. From left, March sisters Kailey Oakes, Delaney Wittlich, Sydney Olson, and Jolie Swanson in a scene with Laurie, played by Alex Quast.

    Jacobs High School in Algonquin will present a musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" Feb. 13-16. From left, March sisters Kailey Oakes, Delaney Wittlich, Sydney Olson, and Jolie Swanson in a scene with Laurie, played by Alex Quast. Courtesy of Tricia Sproule

 
By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 2/12/2020 5:33 AM

The 2019 movie version of "Little Women" was up for six Academy Awards this past Sunday, just ahead of a musical stage version of the show coming to Jacobs High School in Algonquin.

Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13-16. Tickets are $7-$10.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
From left, Sydney Olson, Jolie Swanson, Delaney Wittlich and Kailey Oakes portray sisters Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg March in Jacobs High School's musical production of "Little Women."
From left, Sydney Olson, Jolie Swanson, Delaney Wittlich and Kailey Oakes portray sisters Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg March in Jacobs High School's musical production of "Little Women." - Courtesy of Tricia Sproule

The timely production of this oft-told story, based on the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, was not intentional but rather a happy bit of serendipity, said David McGill, the show's artistic director.

"When we picked this show, we didn't really know (the movie) was coming out. When we found that out, we were really stoked," McGill said. "We feel it will bring more people into the theater. The more we can push literature and reading, I think, the better."

Sydney Olson, front, as Jo and Elise Bessemer as Aunt March rehearse a scene from Jacobs High School's musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." Performances are Feb. 13-16 in Algonquin.
Sydney Olson, front, as Jo and Elise Bessemer as Aunt March rehearse a scene from Jacobs High School's musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." Performances are Feb. 13-16 in Algonquin. - Courtesy of Tricia Sproule
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Set during the Civil War era, the story is a timeless one that resonates with modern audiences.

"The story is of the March family, the four sisters and the mother, Marmee," said McGill.

The girls' father is absent, away fighting in the war.

"It sets up the internal conflict of Marmee. She's worried she's not doing the best for her girls, they're not going to grow up well. The show really highlights women, female actors. The women are the protagonists of the story," McGill said.

The four girls each have their own dramas.

"Jo March struggles with society norms. She chooses to be more tomboyish. Jo is really trying to become a writer. Meg is a governess, head of a boarding school. Then there's Beth. She's the really sweet one. She's always making peace and holding the family together. Amy is sort of amazing. She's acting like a kid at the beginning of the show. She turns into a sophisticated woman," he said.

Jacobs High School in Algonquin will present a musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" Feb. 13-16. From left are Brooke Jones (Marmee March), Jolie Swanson (Beth March), Kailey Oakes (Meg March) and Sydney Olson (Jo March).
Jacobs High School in Algonquin will present a musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" Feb. 13-16. From left are Brooke Jones (Marmee March), Jolie Swanson (Beth March), Kailey Oakes (Meg March) and Sydney Olson (Jo March). - Courtesy of Tricia Sproule
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 33-member cast features freshmen through senior students and includes an ensemble group of 23 and 10 lead characters, said McGill, theater and English teacher at the school. Cast members include Sydney Olson as Jo, Delaney Wittlich as Amy, Kailey Oakes as Meg, Jolie Swanson as Beth, Brooke Jones as Marmee, Elise Bessemer as Aunt March, Jesse Iroanyah as Prof. Bhaer, Caleb Hansen as Mr. Laurence, Alex Quast as Laurie Laurence, Grant Bauman as Mr. John Brooke, and Dani Prokop as Mrs. Kirk.

"It's a really big set," he said. "This is a newer musical from 2006. It's the classic story with contemporary music, Broadway show tunes."

The musical numbers are not splashy and flashy, he said, but more about relationships between people.

"This show is more intimate," he said. "It features soloists and duets. One song, 'Weekly Volcano Press,' tells the whole story that Jo creates and it's put to music."

Ensemble dancers rehearse a ballroom scene in Jacobs High School's production of "Little Women." From left are Tania Vesselinova, Joey Lombardo, George Whitney, Jaelyn Sproule, Sam Albrecht and Brooke Bauman.
Ensemble dancers rehearse a ballroom scene in Jacobs High School's production of "Little Women." From left are Tania Vesselinova, Joey Lombardo, George Whitney, Jaelyn Sproule, Sam Albrecht and Brooke Bauman. - Courtesy of Tricia Sproule

McGill said that some elements of the show remain true to the period, while others have been updated.

"We have amazing costumes we rented from (Arlington Heights theater) Metropolis and the Marriott (theater in Lincolnshire)," he said. "The costumes are period. Our set is not period; however. It's in Concord, Massachusetts. It primarily takes place in an attic in the March house."

To achieve special effects, rented LED lighting is being used under the direction of a hired lighting designer.

The two-act show runs about two and a half hours, including a 10-minute intermission.

McGill said tickets are available online at vancoevents.com/xn.

• • •

Jacobs High School's musical production of "Little Women"

When: 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 13-15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16

Where: Jacobs High School auditorium, 2601 Bunker Hill Drive, Algonquin

Tickets: $10, $7 for students and seniors

Details: vancoevents.com/xn, d300.org/jhs and (847) 532-6100

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