‘Little Women’ opens at Leeds Center on Friday

Published 9:00 am Friday, May 5, 2023

This Friday night, an American classic will come to life at the Leeds Center for the Arts in downtown Winchester.

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times, and now the cast of the Leeds production will add their spin to the March sisters’ story in an adaptation of the Broadway musical.

Curtains go up for the debut performance at 7:30 p.m. with encores this Saturday, Sunday and next weekend.

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Several cast members grew up as fans of the novel and the resulting films.

“I grew up reading this book and watching all the different movies, most recently the 2019 version, which I love. I grew up with ‘Little Women,’ and it has been a joy to be a part of this show,” said Ellie Miller, who plays Amy March.

Winchester resident Charlene Hess plays Aunt March and was a fan of the novel growing up as well.

She reflected on how her interpretation of the source material changed as she aged.

“When I was younger, I would have thought more of which of the sisters I was like, but now I’m a parent to two teenagers,” Hess said. “I’m evaluating the parenting ideas behind Marmee, who has let the girls express themselves. Frankly, I identify with that. I homeschool my own kids and try to create a place for them to pursue their interests.”

As the novel approaches its 150th anniversary, cast members said that the theme of family is what has kept it in the pantheon of seminal American fiction.

“The theme of family, certainly our ideas about what women should and should not do has evolved, but I don’t think our ideas about family and love have,” Hess said. “There are neighbors in the show that are there for each other. I think that is something that everyone can take away.”

Miller echoed that sentiment.

“I think that ‘Little Women’ will always hold up because it is about family at its very core and it is also about sisterhood. I think it is very relatable for a lot of people, especially people who have sisters.”

Of course, the novel’s length can deter many would-be readers and was for the play’s director, Vivian Snipes.

“I have never read ‘Little Women,’ nor was I a fan of the books,” said Snipes.

So when she was approached to direct the play, Snipes was initially hesitant.

After perusing the script, Snipes became intrigued and decided to helm the production.

“Looking at the libretto, and listening to the music got me very interested,” she said.

Being a self-described “newbie,” Snipes ensured that the story would be easy to follow, even for those unfamiliar with the material.

“The play has a lot of gaps if you don’t know the story…it jumps in time. So what was fun for me was staging the filling in the gaps moments so that someone who is not familiar with ‘Little Women’ will still know what is happening,” Snipes said.

The show is also accessible, in Snipes’ opinion, because of the cast’s quality and the “development of the characters.”

Fans and newcomers alike can delight in the story by buying tickets at leedscenter.org/event/little-women-the-musical/. It is $22 for adults and $18 for students.

Friday and Saturday show times are 7:30 p.m. The shows on Sunday start at 2:30 p.m.