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By Constance Scrafield
As with all entertainment, Orangeville Music Theatre (OMT) had little going on during the months and years of Covid-19 lockdowns and just like every other theatre company, they are very happy to be back in the theatre.
“This is our big come back to theatre,” said Amanda Dempsey-Laughlin, in an interview with the Citizen about OMT's upcoming production of ‘Little Women' [the Broadway production] set to be performed in Tweedsmuir Memorial Presbyterian Church opening this weekend, May 27 to 29 and June 3 and 4.
Still cautious of the virus, they have kept their cast to 10 actors, seven of whom play more than one role. For the sake of the protocols, even when restrictions were lessened, they kept the numbers at the 10.
As Ms. Laughlin noted, “The script is written that the girls can play different roles.”
To briefly outline Little Women, written in 1868, it tells the history of a Victorian era American family in Concord, New England, the March family of four sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and their mother, Marmee, with the father of the family away as a vicar in the army.
In the Broadway version, the opening scene sees Jo March living in New York, where she has come in the hopes of promoting herself as a writer. Jo shares some of her writing with Mrs. Kirk, owner of the boarding house where Jo is living and Professor Bhaer, another tenant who came from Germany to live in the United States.
“The characters come to life,” said Ms. Laughlin. “The 10 actors play those characters. We started rehearsing back in October, intending to stage the show in January. But there were further restrictions and we had to postpose to another day, to this coming weekend.”
The musical starts with Jo in New York, remembering her life with Marmee and her sisters. There are songs and a couple of really up beat dance numbers, Ms. Laughlin assured us.
“I have to say, the cast is absolutely incredible,” Ms. Laughlin was enthusiastic. “The vocals – I can't believe how good they are! We're so pleased that we have the talent that we have in this show. I was sitting in one rehearsal room listening and they were singing with the music director, Terri-Ann Gawthroupe. I thought they were playing a recording but they're so good, what I was hearing was our cast.”
They have been welcomed to rehearse in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are so grateful to the church for the donated space. Normally, OMT rehearses in Westside Secondary School but extracurricular activities outside school hours could not be allowed. During the lockdowns, they managed a few zoom rehearsals to keep people in touch and provide the opportunity for people to keep working, said Ms. Laughlin.
Essentially this is the story of Marmee and four lovely girls each quite different from the other with Jo who is restless, creative and impulsive; poor Beth becomes “sickly.” The eldest daughter, Meg is a home body, ready for marriage and the joys of parenthood but Amy the youngest knows from an early age that she will marry well but not until she is ready.
Yet the sisters are close; they deal with the turmoil and heartbreak; they rejoice in what makes them a family, from their pretenses in the attic to accepting the future of each of their lives.
The story is not predictable – there are twists and surprises and considering the period of the tale, it is quite modern, proving perhaps that we have not changed as much as we might think. Love, of course, it is all about love, who falls and who resists. The love of their mother, friendship, sisters.
“People are open up to coming back to the theatre,” said Ms. Laughlin. “But it's super important to assure people that we are careful. The stage is a distance away from the audience who have to wear masks and keep distance. A lot of the actors are really happy to be getting back on stage. We insisted on double vaxxed to be included. This show is really well written.”
Ms. Laughlin is clear about why people should get out to see this show, “because the cast is incredible, the story is sensational. The music is on tracks so we can't change anything. That makes for a different show every night.”
She told us that she has enjoyed directing this production immensely. Grateful for the great cast and the engaged and supportive artistic team, so appreciative to Tweedsmuir Church for being also able to rehearse in the space where they are performing.
A simple set for the space comprises three set pieces which are multi-functional: a piano changes into a desk and a “fancier“ desk; a couple of trunks for the attic and a lovely chair for Marmee and Aunt March each to use in their scenes.
Laura Vradenburg is the costume designer and seamstress who has produced good period dresses. The girls have several changes.
“Laura even put boning into the jackets, perfect colours, every detail is right,” said Ms. Laughlin. “The biggest cost is the rights to the show,” the Citizen was told.
Ticket sales pay for the next show and there are some sponsors supporting OMT. To help with the costumes, there were supplies and funds, things in storage. Treasures in thrift stores. Theatre matters to Orangeville and OMT is a part of that.
Little Women is on this weekend May 27 to 29 and next June 3 and 4.
For tickets and all the details, go to orangevillemusictheatre.com
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