Nancy Sasso Janis
Pomperaug High School (Southbury/Middlebury) Theatre Company and Music Department presented 'Little Women the Broadway Musical' this weekend in the school's large auditorium. The book for 'Little Women' is by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland. This was yet another musical I had never seen, although I had enjoyed two numbers from the show performed at the 2013 CT High School Musical Theater Awards. I actually wrote the following back then: "The two numbers [performed by Jillian Caillouette as Jo March] from St. Paul's Catholic HS'...production of 'Little Women' made me wish I had seen the entire show." Saturday was my chance to do just that.
Director Paul E. Doniger sums it up thusly: "Not only is the moving, sometimes bittersweet, tale of the March family of four sisters and their mother--struggling to survive while the patriarch of the family was off fighting in the Civil War--a beautiful story to read and see on film, but it also has created a dynamic opportunity for great stage drama and wonderful music. I couldn't resist bringing it to my students and now to you, the audience." It also offers the opportunity to cast many strong female leads and the director did just that in this production.
The Stango sisters, who are the talented daughters of Melissa and community theatre veteran Chuck, got to play sisters in this show, and both gave wonderful performances. Katie Stango made the most of her role as the eldest Beth, the brunette and beautiful sister who marries first. The multi-talented Lauren Stango scored the role of the youngest sister Amy, who matures after touring Europe with her Aunt March (played commandingly by Hallie Tepperman, a senior heading to Perdue in the fall.)
Gentle Beth was played to perfection by Nokomis Leaman-Logsdone, a senior who will attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the fall to pursue an acting career. Hers was a heartfelt performance complete with a special voice. Her second-act duet with Jo entitled "Some Things are Meant To Be" was both sad and beautiful.
In the lead role of Jo March was Brianna Velkey, a senior in her final performance at Pomperaug. A very strong actress with a voice to match, Ms. Velkey never faltered in bringing to life the driving force of the show. My favorite of her solo pieces was "Astonishing." Marmee March, the family matriarch, was effectively played by the taller Savannah Moore and her voice soared on her solo numbers "Here Alone" and "Days of Plenty."
Ensemble members served as understudies for the leading roles. As Jo read aloud a story she had written, Justin Callanan played a Knight, Joelle Lo Russo played a Troll, Marissa Proulx played The Hag, and the ensemble backed them up. The leading characters in these fantasy scenes were the dashing Roderigo (debuting sophomore Daniel Kabootian, for whom I hope I chose the correct spelling from the two possibilities,) the evil Braxton (Jacob Rogotzke,) and the heroine Clarissa (Cara Lomaro.) All had to perform a swordfight and did well.
The boys in the cast held their own amid all the little women. Cameron Slater was a fine Laurie Laurence , who became one of the "Five Forever" in the first act. Justin Callahan also played the role of Laurie's tutor Mr. John Brooke and his stern grandfather was played by Ben Berger. The German Professor Bhaer was properly played by Thomas Marinelli.
There were an impressive number of costume changes for all the leads and one was more beautiful than the next. Costume Mistress was Sophie Stanko. The large and efficient running crew moved lots of lovely scenery designed by Amelia Muratori quietly, especially the massive attic piece (built by John Watson and crew) that only got caught once. Sound by Lea Claflin was very good and lighting by James Tuller was nicely done.
Senior Meghan McCloghry served as Assistant Director and gave the curtain speech with Stage Manager D'Artagnan Mayes. Musical Director John Tzetza led the 17-piece orchestra in the pit and the students sounded professional.
I am so glad that Mrs. Stango invited me to this impressive production and kudos to all the students (and the adults who work with them) involved in bringing 'Little Women' to the Pomperaug stage.