Musical ‘Little Women’ opens at SUNY Cortland for holiday season

The musical production “Little Women” opens Friday,
Dec. 1 (Photo: SUNY Cortland Performing Arts Department)

By Mackenzie Henry
SUNY Cortland Communications Office

The emotional ties between the four March sisters in the classic Louisa May Alcott story “Little Women” is an essential part of the plot.

With that in mind, the musical theatre majors cast as the sisters in the upcoming SUNY Cortland musical production of “Little Women” know the importance of forming authentic relationships.

“Right after we were cast, we all went out for a group lunch at Subway,” said Marissa Fess, a junior from Penfield, N.Y., who plays the role of Beth. “It was our first bonding experience.”

SUNY Cortland’s Performing Arts Department musical production of “Little Women,” based on the beloved novel, opens on Friday, Dec. 1. Written by Sean Hartley with music by Kim Oler and lyrics by Alison Hubbard, the musical version seeks to add a fun, new spin on the timeless tale.

“Little Women” follows the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March and their passage and struggles from childhood to womanhood during the 19th century.

“This version showcases four very different sisters, but somehow they all come together as this great loving family,” said Liz Davis, a sophomore from Manassas, Va., who plays the character of Jo. “I think that’s really important because it shows you don’t have to be one cookie cutter type of girl or woman.”

Meg is the oldest sister and is played by Mia Donneruno, a sophomore from East Northport, N.Y. She describes her character as “soft spoken” and dreams of having her own “Cinderella moment at the ball where she meets Prince Charming.” The youngest sister, Amy, is played by Alyssa Lopez, a sophomore from Levittown, N.Y. Lopez describes Amy as “a little bratty, but very headstrong.” The two sisters, although years apart, both desire wealth and a lifestyle that only money can buy.

Beth is a “very shy girl who loves music,” said Fess. Compared to her tomboy sister Jo, who Davis defined as “the type of female character that wants to go out and do all the things that aren’t expected of her in her time,” Beth prefers to help others and perform household chores. Her calm and kind manner has a positive influence on Jo, in stark contrast to Jo’s brash behavior.

The musical continues the 2017-18 season’s focus on the strength of female characters and how they overcome obstacles. “Little Women” is a classic story of female empowerment.

“The show centers around these strong female characters and how you don’t need anyone’s permission to do what you want,” Donneruno said.

Although Little Women was first published in 1868, the coming-of-age tale is still relevant today. The story emphasizes the importance of family. The sisters like different things and have different goals, showing there isn’t a “right way” to be a woman.

The story of “Little Women” has been passed down for generations, giving a chance for the students to act out a part of their upbringing.

Fess, who has three real-life sisters, read the book as a child and would play games with her siblings pretending to be the March sisters. Davis recalls reading the children’s version of Little Women in elementary school and then read the full novel to prepare for her role as Jo. Lopez remembers watching the movie with her mother and “laughing about how Amy was similar to me in some ways and now here I am.”

Donneruno was raised in a musical family and was familiar with the musical version of “Little Women” before being cast.

“The musical was really pushed in my family. I remember my sister and I from a young age skipping around the house, singing the songs, and pretending we were Jo and Beth,” she said.

Opening in time for the holiday season, “Little Women” is a relatable coming-of-age story that audiences of all ages will love. This version of “Little Women” is appropriate for children and is a family-friendly event.

“The show has great music and an array of characters. There are moments where you’ll laugh and cry,” Davis said.

“This show is a lot of fun and people will find themselves in at least one of the characters,” Lopez said.

The actors discussed the musical and also sang a song from “Little Women” on Newschannel 9’s “Bridge Street” on Nov. 22. Additional video of the actors is available on the SUNY Cortland YouTube channel.

“Little Women” plays at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, Saturday, Dec. 2, Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 in the Dowd Fine Arts Center Theatre.

Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for faculty, staff and senior citizens and $9 for students. Purchase tickets at Cortland.edu/boxoffice. Box Office walk-up hours are Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Dowd Fine Arts Center.

For more information, contact Jeffrey Whetstone, the Performing Arts Department’s production manager and publicity coordinator, at 607-753-2831.