‘Little Women’ promises big sound

Northern Kentucky University’s 2011-2012 theatre season will begin next week with “Little Women,” a family-friendly musical that is guaranteed to entertain. The production, which is suitable for all ages according to musical director Jamey Strawn, is centered around four sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — and their mother, Marmie.

Set in the 1860s, the musical is based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name and is told from Jo’s perspective.

The story follows Jo in her “basic discovery of life into adulthood,” according to senior acting major Monica Tenhover. Tenhover described Jo as a “feminist way ahead of her time.” Tenhover said that the music is contemporary and the story is relateable.

“The music takes you on an emotional roller coaster,” senior musical theater major Carmyn Howe said. Howe plays the eldest sister, Meg.

With a small cast of 11, every character has a lot to sing. The music pushes the extremes of vocal technique, according to Strawn, and the actors must build endurance in order to perform in a healthy way.

“Jamey has gotten the cast to go places vocally they didn’t know they could go,” director Sandra Forman said.

Many of the action cues are written into the music rather than the script, which is unusual, according to Strawn. Therefore, the music carries the show through scene transitions.

The scenes take place in multiple locations, including an attic, a parlor, a boarding house and a ball, posing challenges in set design.

“Part of design is to convey to the audience a visual representation of the story,” scenic designer Ron Shaw said. “It’s a visual language for the story they see.”

According to Shaw, the main things to take into consideration in set design are the script’s needs, the locations involved and the director’s vision. With the various locations, Shaw and Forman worked together to figure out how to stage it properly in order to make it flow.

The actors’ execution of the musical helps with the flow as well, according to Forman, who described the cast as “wonderfully inventive risk-takers.”

According to Tenhover, the cast has shown a lot of creativity and thinks the improvisation will make her and the rest of the cast better actors.

One thing that eases the challenges for the actors is the relationships they found by working together. According to Howe, the relationships in the musical translate easily into real life.

“Now we’re sisters,” senior musical theater major Katie Berger, who plays Beth, said. “I feel like we are modern-day versions of the characters.”

“Little Women” opens Sept. 29 and will run through Oct. 9. For show times and ticket prices, contact the box office at (859) 572-5464.