Review: Little Women at Tuscarora High School

By Chloe Loufield of Riverside High School

Four sisters are an undeniable presence, with distinct personalities and constant clamor; it can’t get any better than that! From childhood to womanhood, the importance of familial love rises above all with Tuscarora High School’s musical production of “Little Women.” 

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s 1869 novel, “Little Women” which was adapted for the stage and later opened on Broadway for a four-month run, starring Sutton Foster. With a book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland, the musical is told through the eyes of Jo March, an aspiring writer who has no interest in following society’s expectations of being a proper lady. Other than Jo, the four March sisters include Meg, Amy, and Beth, who live in Concord, Massachusetts. After their father goes off to fight in the Civil War and falls ill, their mother, Marmee, goes to attend to him. The sisters are then left to face the tribulations of being women in 19th-century society while uplifting and supporting one another.

The March sisters had a distinct sisterly bond, which was evident and captivating. Embodying the spunky and independent Jo March was Ella Nassauer. Nassauer bettered the show as a whole with an amazing and compelling voice, enthusiastic energy, and unwavering commitment to her role. Perfectly matching Jo’s energy and talent was Beth, the quiet and musically adept sister who became visibly weaker from scarlet fever. Beth was portrayed by Ellie Mazer, who delivered a genuine performance and showcased elegant vocals along with palpable chemistry. The other March sister, Meg (Ryan Clyde), was longing for a greater life of luxury while remaining a role model as the eldest sister.  Meanwhile, Amy (Brigid Pellicano) was self-centered yet still kind and romantic. Each of the four sisters exhibited distinct traits, indicating their values in life and their well-rounded family dynamic. 

One of the true standouts of the production was Marmee, the mother of the March sisters, embodied by Dillan Vanzego.  Vanzego’s strong and outstanding voice was simply stunning while also giving a motherly contrast to her daughters.  Amongst her powerhouse vocals and stylistic acting choices, her passion for performing was evident. Vanzego had a strong emotional connection to her character and radiated with charisma as she truly lit up the stage. 

The cast and crew took advantage of the challenge to perform during a pandemic by filming the show live in their auditorium. During the performance, the cast members were socially distanced with clear face coverings, which brought a sense of nostalgia for live theatre. Though minimalistic, the set, designed by Ryan De Angioletti, provided a homey feel to the production. The wig styling by Emily Giessmann consisted of luscious curls and shine, which served to set the period well. The costume team, designed by Claudia Hunn and Bailey Vigil, incorporated modernized and time period-appropriate pieces, creating a contrast between the show’s classic and contemporary feel. The beautiful gowns for the women remained in a similar color range and were each well suited to accentuate their characters. Additionally, Emma Passman and Jordan Ayoub’s lighting perfectly set the mood for every scene, using a consistent color palette to make sure every performer was shown in the way intended. Creating live theatre in a pandemic is an impressive feat, and the production’s blend of technical elements only enhanced the performance.

With the help of familial love in what it means to rise against societal expectations as a woman, Tuscarora High School’s production of “Little Women” is truly an inspiring musical that reveals how family bonds come above all.

[This review of the May 21 performance Tuscarora High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]

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