CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Little Women" is one of my favorite childhood novels and one of my favorite movies. I used to spend hours envisioning myself as Jo March -- the Katherine Hepburn version, of course. Kanawha Players brought the classic nostalgia to life in their stage rendition of Louisa M. Alcott's book. Adapted for the stage by Kristin Lawrence and directed by Kaytonya Hart and Ginger Workman, the play takes place in the March family's parlor as the girls grapple with typical sibling problems and the awkwardness of growing up poor in a society where wealth is a virtue.Overall, Susanna Tucker (Meg), Kittie Shaver (Jo), Clare Higgins (Amy) and Haley Lambert (Beth) do an excellent job of bringing their characters' individual personalities into an engaging and interesting family dynamic. At times funny, at times sad and at times touching, the girls' strong wills and harsh tempers clash only to then meld seamlessly back together in heartfelt expressions of love, joy and sympathy.I must point out that Higgins, as Amy, was as annoying as I remember. The actor did a wonderful job bringing the spoiled entitlement of a baby sister to the stage. Screaming in rage, throwing tantrums and generally wreaking havoc while being coddled by her family -- she was the perfect little sister foil.
Shaver made a delightful Jo, with her elbows and knees falling about the stage or stomping over the furniture. She was an exciting and entertaining version of a beloved heroine. The script felt a bit awkward at times as major characters from the book, most notably Laurie, a main beau, are left out of the casting and only referenced.The play also ends rather abruptly, leaving the audience not quite sure if the action is over. This is probably most obvious to audience members very familiar with the book, and might not be so striking to someone who hasn't read the novel. There were some opening night glitches -- missed cues and hurried lines. There were also some long and distracting pauses between scene changes with no lighting cues or curtain -- this is confusing for an audience.Overall, however, this is a splendid rendition of a beloved classic. Kanawha Players offers a lovely historic venue and a wonderful night of entertainment suitable for the entire family. Go see it.