Posts Tagged Sharon Rietkerk

Little Women – Play Review


Director Robert Kelley has done it again; a superb job of bringing the classic “Little Women” by Allan Knee, based on the original novel by Louisa May Alcott, on stage at www.theatreworks.org .   This classic tale of four sisters is brought on stage in the form of a musical, with lovely lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, under musical director, William Liberatore.  It is playing in Palo Alto, at Lucie Stern Theater, until January 4, 2014.  The play is set in 1868, during the time of the civil war, in New England.  Costume Design befitting the period is beautiful and the credit goes to Fumiko Bielefeldt and creative scenic design is by Joe Ragey.

Alcott wrote the novel “Little Women”, based on familiar references from her own life.  In the play, the father of four girls (the March sisters), is away, fighting in the war, leaving their mother, Marmee, (beautifully played by Elizabeth Ward Land) to run the household full of four young women.   Emily Koch is absolutely stupendous as Jo the second sister, an aspiring writer, who is feisty, a non conformist, loves books, and spurns traditions.  Jo has a hard time getting her book published and is told to come up with a “better” plot.  The play opens with a musical about her book and she asks “better than what, better than this dazzling plot?”  In an era when women were to do as they were bid, Jo reaches high, and she is confident, she will attain what she is reaching for.

While Jo finds solace in her writing, her younger sister Amy (superbly played by Arielle Fishman) is both jealous of Jo and desirous of what may be within Jo’s reach.  Amy is vivacious and full of life.  When Jo and eldest sister Meg are invited to their first Ball, Amy is so jealous that she burns to ashes, Jo’s half written novel.  Jo sings “I will never fall asleep again” and it falls on Marmee to make peace between the two sisters.  Sharon Rietkerk plays the oldest sister, Meg, who is the family beauty, is simple, sweet and easily falls in love with John Brooke (played by Justin Buchs), and Julia Belanoff does a fabulous job as Beth, the youngest sister who is sweet, sensible, satisfied with her herself and sadly succumbs to an illness.

Little Women is a story of the four sisters, growing up, finding love, rejecting love, supporting one another through life’s trials and tribulations, getting beaten down by life’s struggles, overcoming them, attaining their dreams, and holding the family together by a tie that binds.  Matt Dengler (as Laurie, grandson of the March family’s neighbor), Richard Farrell (as the old and crusty neighbor with a soft heart), Justin Buchs (as Laurie’s tutor), and Christopher Vettel (as Jo’s professor) have played their roles nicely and they add the right touch of yang to the yin of the March women.  I love the cast in this play and Elizabeth Palmer as stern Aunt March is also wonderful.

But it is fantastic Emily Koch as Jo, whose performance makes this a show to remember.  There are many warm, funny, sweet moments in the play that the sisters enjoy.  And yet, in the end, it is the heartbreak that ignites Jo to write a novel that brings her recognition and fame, and it is her writing that helps her overcome the heartbreak, and adapt to the changing family.

This is a beautiful not-to-miss play of the season, to start off the holidays filled with family celebrations.  The opening night performance was completely sold out and the audience gave a standing ovation.  Book your tickets early at http://www.theatreworks.org .

Cover of "Little Women (Pavilion Classics...

Cover of Little Women (Pavilion Classics)

   

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A Minister’s Wife — Play Review


A Minister’s Wife – Play Review

“Candida here, and Candida there, and Candida Everywhere! Oh the enchantment.”  The musical “A Minister’s Wife”, currently playing at San Jose Rep, based on a book by Austin Pendleton, based on the original George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida”, is conceived and brilliantly directed by Michael Halberstam.  Enchanting lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen capture the essence of Shaw’s wit; music is provided by Joshua Schmidt and Musical Director is Dolores Duran-Cefalu.

What notions about love did Victorian women hold?  Did they mindlessly bid, as they were told?  The plot centers around beautiful and gorgeous Candida (Sharon Rietkerk is brilliant in the role), facing a choice between her smart but stuffy husband, the Rev. Morell and lovestruck, passionate, young poet, Eugene Marchbanks (brilliantly played by Christopher Vettel and Tim Homsley respectively).  Rev. Morell, a Christian socialist, aspires to change the world.  He is rudely confronted and accused by Marchbanks, who believes his own love for Candida to be superior to Morell’s and tells Morell, “you selfishly blindly sacrifice her (Candida) to your pious ambitions”.  Morell, who harbored no doubt that others would be swayed by his lofty words and speeches, has his confidence greatly shaken as Marchbanks says, “is it always like this for her, with your metaphors, your rhetoric, your speeches?”  Jarrod Zimmerman playing the role of The Reverend “Lexy” Mill and Liz Baltes in the role of Miss Proserpine “Prossy” are brilliant.

Candida (Sharon Rietkerk), her husband (Christopher Vettel) and a poet (Tim Homsley). Photo: Kevin Berne

 

 

 

With little doubt that his wife loves the young poet, Rev. Morell confronts Candida and demands that she make a choice.  “I am up for auction, it seems”, say says, “I am waiting to hear your bid”.  What does each of them offer and who does she choose?  In their desire to gain her love, as they jostle with what they can offer, Marchbanks, a poet, foolishly, madly in love, is week and desolate.  And what can Morell offer; a reverend “spoiled from the cradle, spoiled from the alter”, living in a “castle of comfort”, built by his wife?  Shaw’s brilliant play is a tribute to the hidden strength of the women.  It reminded me of a line from the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, “the man is the head, but the woman is the neck that turns the head.”

Stephanie Schliemann and Deirdre Rose Holland have done a fabulous job as Stage Managers and Brandin Baron’s Costume Design transports the audience back in time, without any obvious appearance of absurdness.  I absolutely loved the musical and am certain it will play to sold out audiences.  For tickets, go to www.sjrep.com .

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