Little Women (musical)

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Little Women
Little Women musical logo.jpg
Original Broadway Logo
MusicJason Howland
LyricsMindi Dickstein
BookAllan Knee
BasisLittle Women
by Louisa May Alcott
Productions2005 Broadway
2005 US tour
2008 Sydney
2017 Manchester
2021 London

Little Women is a musical with a book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland.

Based on Louisa May Alcott's 1868–69 semi-autobiographical two-volume novel, it focuses on the four March sisters— traditional Meg, wild, aspiring writer Jo, timid Beth and romantic Amy,— and their beloved Marmee, at home in Concord, Massachusetts, while their father is away serving as a Union Army chaplain during the Civil War. Intercut with the vignettes in which their lives unfold are several recreations of the melodramatic short stories Jo writes in her attic studio.


A workshop production was presented at Duke University in February 2001, directed by Nick Corley. This production followed a workshop reading in March–April 2000.[1] The production next played another workshop at Duke University in October 2004. This version was directed by Susan H. Schulman.[2]

After 55 previews, the Broadway production opened at the Virginia Theatre on January 23, 2005, and closed on May 22, 2005, after 137 performances. It was directed by Susan H. Schulman, with choreography by Michael Lichtefeld, set design by Derek McLane, costume design by Catherine Zuber, and lighting design by Kenneth Posner.[3][4][5]

The Broadway cast featured Sutton Foster as Jo, Maureen McGovern as Marmee/The Hag, Janet Carroll as Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk, Jenny Powers as Meg/Clarissa, Megan McGinnis as Beth/Rodrigo II, Amy McAlexander as Amy/The Troll, Danny Gurwin as Laurie/Rodrigo, Robert Stattel as Mr. Laurence/ The Knight, Jim Weitzer as Mr. Brooke/ Braxton, and John Hickok as Professor Bhaer.[5]

A 30-city US tour, with McGovern as Marmee, Kate Fisher as Jo, Renee Brna as Meg, Autumn Hurlbert as Beth, and Gwen Hollander as Amy ran from August 2005 (San Diego, California) through July 2006 (Kennedy Center, Washington, DC).[6][7][8]

Kookaburra produced the Australian premiere production, which ran at the Seymour Centre, Sydney, from November 2008 through December 2008.[9] Opera Australia's Stuart Maunder directed, with musical direction by Peter Rutherford. The cast included Kate-Maree Hoolihan[10] as Jo, Trisha Noble as Marmee, Judi Connelli as Aunt March, Erica Lovell as Amy,[11] Octavia Barron-Martin as Meg,[12] Jodie Harris as Beth, Hayden Tee as Professor Bhaer,[13] Stephen Mahy as Laurie, David Harris as John,[14] and Philip Hinton as Mr. Lawrence.[15][16]

The show was first seen in Europe in an Austrian production billed as European premiere by Theater im Neukloster, Vienna, in 2007 using the German title "Beth und ihre Schwestern" ("Beth and her sisters").[17][18] The German premiere using the same translation (but slightly different title "Betty und ihre Schwestern") was mounted in 2010 by Waldbühne Kloster Oesede [de] in Georgsmarienhütte.[19] It was brought to the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester in 2017 lead by Amie Giselle-Ward in the role of Jo March. Bronagh Lagan directed with musical direction from Rickey Long in a production also billed as the European premiere.

In July 2018, the show made its East Anglian debut (Great Britain) at Sheringham Little Theatre in North Norfolk.

The musical made its London premiere at the Park Theatre from November through December 2021.[20][21]


Act I

In 1866, Josephine March (Jo) receives a notice of rejection from another publisher, making it her twenty-second rejection. Jo asks Professor Bhaer, another boarder at Mrs. Kirk's Boarding House, his opinion on her story ("An Operatic Tragedy"). The professor is not entranced by her blood and guts saga. He tells her that he thinks that she can write something better. Jo, taken aback and angry at Bhaer's reaction, asks him what he knows to criticize her and insults him by calling him old. He reacts by saying that he has stated his opinion as she has hers. He leaves. Jo, left alone, wonders what could be "better" than the story she has written. But then she muses that perhaps her writing was better when she was at home in Concord, Massachusetts ("Better").

Three years earlier at her attic-studio, Jo assembles her sisters, Meg, Beth and Amy, to tell them that she will be putting up for a show of her own called the "Operatic Tragedy". The sisters beg Jo to not put it up for a show but Jo convinces them that this play will be a hit and will make for the best Christmas there ever was. ("Our Finest Dreams"). Marmee, their mother, comes in with a letter from Mr. March who is away as a Union Army chaplain in the American Civil War. As she writes a response, she reflects on how hard it is to be the pillar of strength in the March home ("Here Alone").

Aunt March, the wealthy aunt of the March sisters, asks Jo to change from being a tomboy to a model lady of society. She tells Jo of an idle thought to bring her along to Europe. Jo begs to go with her, but Aunt March reasons that she will take her only if she changes. Jo, who has always dreamed of seeing Europe, agrees ("Could You?"). Meanwhile, Meg has one of her own dreams realized: she and Jo are invited to Annie Moffat's Valentine's Day Ball. But on the day of the ball, while the two sisters are rushing around for their finishing touches, Meg announces that she cannot go. She asks Marmee what to say when one of her potential suitors asks her to dance. Marmee tells Meg to just smile and say "I'd be delighted" ("Delighted"). Amy, who cares about society and fine things more than Jo, rushes down in Jo's old ball gown to join them in going to the ball, but Jo stops her, as she is not invited.

At the ball, Jo accidentally sits on Laurie, who is a neighbor of the Marches' along with his grumpy grandfather, Mr. Laurence. She apologizes to Laurie and asks him why he is sitting down. Laurie replies that he must have passed out from too much dancing. Laurie's tutor, Mr. John Brooke, then comes in and scolds Laurie for not meeting important people, which would make Mr. Laurence furious. Mr. Brooke asks Meg to dance and Meg agrees. Meg and Mr. Brooke are smitten at first sight. Laurie confesses to Jo his need for friends and asks Jo to dance with him. Jo replies that she doesn't dance and has a patch on her dress but Laurie keeps on trying to make an impression ("Take A Chance On Me").

Back at the March's after the ball, Jo and Amy have a little confrontation after it is revealed that a spiteful Amy had burned Jo's story manuscript in the fireplace, but Marmee sends Amy off to her bed and tells Jo that Amy is just a child. Jo spits back that Amy is a not a child but a demon in a child's body. Jo then rushes up to her attic to rewrite her story. Laurie invites Jo to a skating match, which she at first refuses but eventually agrees to. Amy wants to go with them but she already outgrown her pair of skates. Beth, who intends to stay home, offers Amy her old skates.

Beth is sitting at the family's old piano when Mr. Laurence comes in looking for Laurie, who is out with Jo and Amy. Mr. Laurence discovers Beth's talent at the piano and they sing a duet ("Off to Massachusetts"). Jo and Laurie come in from the skating race with Amy in Laurie's arms because she had fallen into the ice while skating. Jo and Amy reconcile, and Jo makes Laurie an honorary member of the March family ("Five Forever"). Mr. Brooke excuses Meg for a while to tell her of his enlistment in the Union Army. He then asks Meg her hand in marriage, and she accepts ("More Than I Am").

But Jo's life goes to crisis when Mr. March's sickness calls Marmee. Jo has a confrontation with Aunt March after she cuts her hair and sells it to raise money for Marmee’s trip to Washington. Aunt March then turns her focus to Amy, molding her to be the society lady that she envisioned for Jo. Laurie, who decides to ask Jo to marry him, then comes in her attic-studio. Laurie tries to kiss her but Jo gently pushes him away. He put out a ring but Jo thinks that it is a joke. Laurie says he loves Jo. Jo does not accept his marriage proposal. He tells her that she will marry, but Jo tells him that she will never marry; Laurie, on the contrary, says she will, but not to him ("Take A Chance On Me (Reprise)"). Jo then ponders her future, which is changing significantly. She vows to find another way to achieve her future ("Astonishing!").

Act II

At Mrs. Kirk's boarding house at New York City, she is holding a telegram for Jo from Mrs. March. Jo bounces in, looking for the professor. She then realizes that the professor is right in front of her. She tells them her fantastic news: she made her first sale as an author ("The Weekly Volcano Press")! She tells them the story of the sale as well, that thanks to Professor Bhaer's advice, she re-edited the story. But the news is disturbed when Jo reads the telegram. She is notified of Beth's scarlet fever and immediately packs her bags to return to Concord.

Jo, after a few days, sends a letter to Professor Bhaer, asking him what's new in New York. The professor struggles to write a decent response ("How I Am"). Back in Concord, at a nearby seashore, Beth says good bye to Jo, telling her that she is not afraid to move on because she is loved by everyone, especially Jo, and that she is grateful to have them with her during her lifetime ("Some Things Are Meant To Be"). Beth dies soon after. Amy and Laurie come home from Europe and struggle to tell Jo of their pending marriage because they do not wish for Jo to be upset ("The Most Amazing Thing").

Jo and the family grieve Beth's death. Marmee, being the strong one, tells Jo of how she copes with Beth's death: she tells Jo that she cannot be defeated by Beth's death, and that she must move on ("Days of Plenty"). Jo reminisces while her sisters are still with her. She finds that her family and friends are themselves astonishing and this encourages her to write her novel, Little Women ("The Fire Within Me").

On the day of Laurie and Amy's wedding, Professor Bhaer comes to Concord to see Jo. Jo is very surprised to see him because she "never thought he would do it." He then proceeds to tell Jo of his feelings for her saying "Though we are not at all alike, you make me feel alive." ("Small Umbrella In The Rain"). He then proposes and Jo accepts his proposal. The professor tells Jo that he sent the manuscript of her novel Little Women to the Weekly Volcano Press, the same publisher that accepted Jo's operatic tragedy. He tells Jo that the publisher agreed to publish it, and Jo proclaims her happiness ("Sometimes When You Dream (Reprise)").


Character Vocal range Description
Jo March mezzo-soprano
The second of the four sisters. A passionate and determined young author, struggling to find her place in the world. Independent and fiery, she rejects Laurie's proposal before eventually becoming engaged to Professor Bhaer.
Professor Bhaer baritone
A sensible German professor boarding with Mrs. Kirk. Persuades Jo that she is “better” than the “blood and guts stuff” she writes. Falls in love with, and eventually becomes engaged to Jo.
Theodore "Laurie" Laurence tenor
Lonely and charming boy next door who becomes firm friends with the March family. Proposes to Jo but eventually falls in love with and marries Amy.
Amy March soprano
The youngest sister who yearns for a sophisticated life, Amy is the baby of the family and is used to getting her own way. Ladylike and elegant, she eventually marries Laurie.
Meg March soprano
The eldest and most traditional of the sisters. Prim and proper but romantic and sweet-natured. She marries, and has twins with John Brooke.
Beth March soprano
The second youngest of the sisters. Timid and musical, Beth encourages and helps her sisters selflessly. Forms an unlikely friendship with the crotchety Mr Laurence but tragically dies of scarlet fever in Act 2.
Marmee March mezzo-soprano
Marmee is the backbone of the March family and manages to remain strong in spite of the difficulties she faces. She only reveals her true fears and pain when she sings.
Mr. Laurence baritone
Laurie's grandfather. A stiff and stern elderly man who eventually shows his softer side and gives Beth the beloved piano that belonged to his dead daughter.
Aunt March mezzo-soprano
A formidable and haughty great-aunt to the March sisters. Exasperated by Jo's lack of propriety, she decides to take Amy to Europe.
Mr. John Brooke baritone
Laurie's tutor. A reserved and hard-working young man who only shows his tender side when he falls in love with Meg.
Mrs. Kirk mezzo-soprano
The Irish owner of the boarding house in which Professor Bhaer and Jo meet.

Doubling of roles

The show was written to be performed by a cast of ten who played 18 individual roles.


  • 1 – Jo
  • 2 – Meg, Clarissa
  • 3 – Marmee, Hag
  • 4 – Amy, Troll
  • 5 – Beth, Rodrigo II
  • 6 – Aunt March, Mrs. Kirk


  • 1 – Professor Bhaer
  • 2 – Laurie, Rodrigo
  • 3 – Mr. John Brooke, Sir Braxton Prendergast
  • 4 – Mr. Laurence, The Knight

In the Operatic Tragedy

Character Description Doubled with (in the original production)
Clarissa A sweet young woman fleeing Sir Braxton Prendergast. The heroine of Jo's operatic tragedy. Meg
Rodrigo The determined and brave hero of Jo's operatic tragedy. Laurie
Sir Braxton Prendergast An evil villain ruthlessly pursuing Clarissa. Mr John Brooke
The Hag A mysterious creature who shows Clarissa the way through the forest in return for her combs. Marmee
The Troll A greedy monster who takes Clarissa across wild rapids in return for her necklace. Amy
The Knight A tired and lonely old man who gives Clarissa his sword in return for her kindness to him. Mr. Laurence
Rodrigo II The real hero of Jo's operatic tragedy – Clarissa's long lost sister. Beth

Optional Chorus

The script and score include notations for the addition of a chorus to include:

  • Dancers at the ball
  • Ice-skaters
  • Chorus of Hags
  • Chorus of Trolls
  • Chorus of Monks
  • Beachcombers

Song list[edit]

Note: Better (Reprise), Take A Chance on Me (Reprise), and Off To Massachusetts (Reprise) are excluded from the cast recording.

Cast and characters[edit]

Character Industry reading
Duke University workshop
Duke University workshop
US tour
Park Theatre (London)
Jo Kerry O’Malley Sutton Foster Kate Fisher Lydia White
Marmee/The Hag Jan Maxwell Mary Gordon Murray Maureen McGovern Savannah Stevenson
Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk Jane Connell Rita Gardner Janet Carroll Louisa Flaningam Bernadine Pritchett
Laurie/Rodrigo Joe Machota Danny Gurwin Stephen Patterson Sev Keoshgerian
Professor Bhaer John Dossett Allen Fitzpatrick John Hickok Andrew Varela Ryan Bennett
Amy/The Troll Jenn Gambatese Catherine Brunnel Amy McAlexander Gwen Hollander Mary Moore
Beth/Rodrigo II Megan McGinnis Autumn Hurlbert Anastasia Martin
Meg/Clarissa Becky Watson Rachel Hardin Amy Rutberg Jenny Powers Renee Brna Hana Ichijo
Mr. Laurence/The Knight Robert Stattel Brian Protheroe
Mr. Brooke/Braxton Robert Bartlet Jim Weitzer Michael Minarik Lejaun Sheppard


Reception for the musical was mixed to positive, with praise being aimed at Foster's performance and the musical's score, and criticism for the book and overall pacing of the production.

Ben Brantley, reviewing for The New York Times, wrote "Watching this shorthand account of four sisters growing up poor but honest during the Civil War is like speed reading Alcott's evergreen novel of 1868. You glean the most salient traits of the principal characters, events and moral lessons, but without the shading and detail that made these elements feel true to life in the book...Since the characters do not acquire full personalities, you don't feel emotionally invested in them." He wrote of Sutton Foster: "The slim and supple Ms. Foster has a lot to carry on those twitchy shoulders. If 'Little Women' does develop the following of young girls and their mothers the producers have targeted, it will be largely Ms. Foster's doing."[5]

The Village Voice reviewer noted "The show itself, similarly, seems lost in the drafty hugeness of the Virginia, where the often charming family scenes are dwarfed by the high proscenium arch (emphasized by the metal scaffolding that frames Derek McLane's otherwise attractive settings). The pity of it is that, between seizures, so much of Little Women's reality has been established. Allan Knee's script offers long passages of astutely condensed Alcott; Jason Howland's pleasant music, inventively orchestrated by Kim Scharnberg, pulls contemporary shapes out of period waltzes, polkas, and quadrilles, bumpily but gamely supported by Mindi Dickstein's uneven lyrics. And the cast, as always, offers many potential rescuers."[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2005 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Maureen McGovern Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Kim Scharnberg Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated


  1. ^ Lefkowitz, David and Jones, Kenneth. " 'Little Women' Fully Cast for NC's Duke Workshop, Feb. 8–18" Playbill, January 29, 2001
  2. ^ " 'Little Women' Cancels New Haven Tryout", June 23, 2004
  3. ^ Murray, Matthew.Review, January 23, 2005
  4. ^ a b Feingold, Michael."Little Women as a Broadway musical? Louisa May Alcott has indeed come a long way, baby" The Village Voice, January 25, 2005
  5. ^ a b c Brantley, Ben. "Tomboy With Gumption (and Her Sisters)", The New York Times, January 24, 2005
  6. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Ready to Astonish, Little Women Tour Has Its Jo and Laurie", Playbill, July 14, 2005
  7. ^ Cain, Scott.Review of tour, Cincinnati, June 15, 2006
  8. ^ "'Little Women, the Broadway Musical' Listing, accessed November 29, 2010
  9. ^ Morgan, Clare (November 11, 2008). "Stakes are high for Kookaburra's sister act". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  10. ^ Kate-Maree Hoolihan Archived 2011-05-18 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Erica Lovell
  12. ^ Octavia Barron-Martin
  13. ^ Hayden Tee
  14. ^ David Harris Archived 2012-07-24 at
  15. ^ Dent, Nick."Little Women: The Broadway Musical" Archived 2009-10-03 at the Wayback Machine Time Out Sydney, accessed November 29, 2010
  16. ^ "Little Women listing, accessed November 29, 2010
  17. ^ Beth und ihre Schwestern, Theater im Neukloster (in German)
  18. ^ Kultur-Channel
  19. ^ "Musicalzentrale - Betty und ihre Schwestern - Waldbühne Kloster Oesede Georgsmarienhütte - Keine aktuellen Aufführungstermine".
  20. ^ Meyer, Dan."Cast Set for London Bow of Little Women Musical", Playbill, October 5, 2021
  21. ^ "Full Cast Announced For LITTLE WOMEN at Park Theatre" Broadway World, accessed April 1, 2022

External links[edit]