'Little Women' hits the Wilton Playshop stage

The classic American novel about the March sisters Jo, Meg, Amy, and Bess, has come to the Wilton Playshop stage in the form of Little Women the Musical.

“Louisa May Alcott’s book is such a beloved book by so many people that we felt it would be a good draw for the patrons,” said Wilton Playshop President Zelie Pforzheimer.

Ms. Pforzheimer said the Playshop’s Plans & Directors Selection Committee was nervous at first about putting on Little Women.

“It’s a really big show in which four different seasons are represented, and it travels over two to three years of the March family’s lives,” she said. “It’s also very costume-heavy, which is something we try to stay away from because costumes are very expensive.”

After figuring out where to find costumes, the Playshop decided to go with Little Women, said Ms. Pforzheimer, adding that the enthusiasm of Lauren Nicole Sherwood also influenced the Playshop’s decision.

The idea of a Little Women production was hers.

“The Playshop was accepting directors’ proposals last year, so I put together a proposal for Little Women because I love the story and I thought it would translate well at the Playshop,” explained Ms. Sherwood.

As the director of the Little Women production, Ms. Sherwood is responsible for the overall vision of the show.

“With the musical director, we cast the show and then put together the movement of the show,” she said. “We work through the characters and establish how and where they move in any given scene.”

Ms. Sherwood also choreographed the show and was able to put together all the dances for the musical numbers.

Casting the production was challenging, she said, because “every person who came in was so talented.”

Ms. Sherwood said there are many factors to consider when casting a show like Little Women.

“You have to put together a believable March family, and then the male roles need to complement them appropriately,” she said.

Ms. Pforzheimer said casting the male roles was not an easy task.

“Men who can sing and dance are really, really hard to come by, and they have to have a certain look and a certain age also,” she said. “It was tricky casting the men.”

Ms. Pforzheimer said approximately 35 to 40 people showed up for the two days of auditions, which were followed by one day of callbacks.

By the end of callbacks, Ms. Pforzheimer said, two of the men’s roles were still unfilled.

“We also thought we had the guy who would play Laurie,” she said, “but then his schedule changed and he could no longer play the part.”

Ms. Pforzheimer said the Little Women production ended up taking about three weeks to cast.

For about six weeks, the cast rehearsed five days a week at the Playshop before opening night on Feb. 28.

“In this particular play, I’d say every role is a leading role,” said Ms. Pforzheimer. “Every person in it has a song that is their own song, or a duet. It’s one of those rare Broadway show animals that has excellent roles for every single person.”

The musical director, Michael Andrew Cooney, said he is responsible for teaching the cast all of the music, arranging and rehearsing the orchestra and making sure the music adheres to the sheet music.

Mr. Cooney said not only had he never musically directed a Little Women production before but he had never heard of the musical before.

“I had no idea what it was supposed to sound like, but to my surprise, the music was quite modern,” he said.

He said the cast’s small size makes it even more important for them to learn the music.

“There’s no big ensemble to cover any challenging singing parts,” he said. “Because it’s so exposed, every one of the cast members really had to learn their parts well and accurately.”

Mr. Cooney said one of his hopes for the show has already come true: “That the cast and the production team make the show their own; something particularly unique to the group at Wilton.”

Ms. Pforzheimer said the production has something for everyone.

“It’s a lovely play — men will like it, women will like it, grandmas will like it, children will like it,” she said. “It’s a very uplifting play, as the book is.”

Not only is it uplifting, said Ms. Pforzheimer, but it’s also an exciting and heartwarming show with a good message.

“The message of the play is that family is exceptionally important in everybody’s life,” said Ms. Pforzheimer. “It’s about how family can support you and teach you and tear you down and build you back up again.”

Ms. Sherwood said she hopes the Little Women production inspires the audience in some way, big or small.

“The heroine, Jo, fights very hard to follow her dreams, no matter what challenge she faces in her life; she is true to herself and loves her family more than anything,” she said. “I hope that by seeing Jo’s journey, the audience can take a journey of their own to show themselves what is important in their lives and in turn follow a forgotten dream or pursue a secret hope.”

Ms. Pforzheimer said Wilton Playshop’s cast is something she believes will set the show apart from other Little Women performances.

“There’s something about having people who don’t make a living doing theater and who just come together to give their talents to the community that makes a stronger production than something you would see on Broadway,” said Ms. Pforzheimer. “It is the love of theater that is being shared, and I think that makes it have much more heart.”

Ms. Pforzheimer said the fact that everything is done by volunteers is something to be recognized about the Wilton Playshop.

“Nobody is getting paid, and I think that it is the most extraordinary thing about the Playshop,” said Ms. Pforzheimer. “All these people are putting in countless hours — working on sets, costumes, lines, and dances — and getting paid nothing for it.”

Ms. Pforzheimer said it is a gift for the Wilton community to have a group like this in its midst and a gift she hopes is not squandered.

The Wilton Playshop will present Little Women until Saturday, March 15.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for seniors and students. On the Playshop’s “Thrifty Thursdays,” tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors.

Tickets and information: wiltonplayshop.org.