The much beloved classic period coming-of-age novel turned play about a family in Civil War America is coming to the stage this Christmas from Theatre Calgary.
With all of the period costumes, charm, and heart that has continued to delight readers and audiences alike through its many adaptations.
This year’s performance is one that stays true to the story of the March family, and yet has changes for the stage that gives it some fun said the play’s director, Jenna Rodgers.
“For me, in terms of how I aesthetically wanted to approach the show, I was really interested in delivering a Christmas holiday extravaganza that that people and families would enjoy—rich with all of the things that people like, like period costumes, hosts of local actors, and then to surprise them with a little bit of an anachronism,” Rodgers said.
Performances run from Dec. 7 through 31, at the Max Bell Theatre in Arts Commons.
Adapted to the stage by playwright Kate Hamill, the production by Theatre Calgary represents the full diversity in modern sensibilities that the adaptation brings, but also in the casting for the play.
“I think to do an ambitious Christmas production that delivers all the spectacle, there’s a lot to squish into four weeks of rehearsal and this cast has been prepared, generous, and very kind with one another. They’re bold, and they’re not afraid to take some risks,” said Rodgers.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that also, in the vein of contemporary work, part of my MO as an artist has been to bring together diverse groups of artists, and I know that that often means ethno-culturally diverse, which is true in this case, but it also means a diversity of age ranges and a diversity of education and experiences—that’s also been an enormous gift with this cast.”
Focus on different members of the March family
Vanessa Leticia Jette, who is playing Meg March, said that in many ways the Theatre Calgary production is like a love letter to the character of Beth, rather than Jo, as so many other adaptations are.
“Beth is our little angel, and we get to borrow her and tell this story from her eyes. So it’s a different adaption, it’s fresh, and I think people should should buy those tickets and come check it out,” she said.
She said that there was inherently some pressure putting on a production like Little Women because of what audiences expect.
“Everyone has their favourite Jo, their favourite Meg, because there’s been movie adaptions and then you have the books and you have your own imagination to work with as well. With Jenna and this whole group, it’s just been so fun to be able to infuse the characters with some of our own personality as well,” Jette said.
Jette said that she has approached the role with care, but with a bit of irony as well. As the youngest daughter in her own family, she’s now taking the stage as the oldest daughter in the Marches.
“It’s been fun to step into it, and and I kind of learned through Meg March and through my experience here on how to take care of others, which I feel like Meg March is like. She really is like the second mother,” she said.
A Christmas Carol returning in 2023
As for the pressure for Rodgers, she said that it was less about stepping into directing a beloved period piece, and more about the expectations that Calgarians have about A Christmas Carol playing on stage each year. A return, she said, would be happening next year.
“I like the idea of trying to hold on to concepts of tradition, but to be flexible with the execution of it. So you know if your concept of Christmas tradition is to see a play, fantastic, but can it be more than one play? Could it be a different play?” Rodgers said.
“We know that [Theatre Calgary’s] got a rich, beautiful tradition of celebrating the season with A Christmas carol, and Little Women is absolutely a departure from that, but we wanted to make sure that we offered something that still gave audiences the sense of the season that they’re looking for.”
Tara Beagan, Ntlaka’pamux and Irish-Canadian, plays March family matriarch Marmee March; Dean Stockdale in their Theatre Calgary debut plays Jo March; Vanessa Leticia Jette, a veteran of previous Theatre Calgary productions of a Christmas Carol in 2019 and 2021 plays Meg March; Heidi Damayo in her Theatre Calgary debut plays Amy March; and Rebbekah Ogden, who previously performed in The Comedy of Errors during Shakespeare on the Bow for Theatre Calgary, plays Beth March.
Bernard Pacheco is taking on the role of paramour Laurie, alongside Devin Mackinnon as John Brooks.
The production is directed by Jenna Rodgers, who also directed the Covid-19 pandemic filmed production of A Christmas Carol for Theatre Calgary. Set and lighting design is by Andy Moro, costume design by Whittyn Jason, original music and sound design by Alessandro Juliani, and projection design by Beth Kates.
Tickets are on sale now at www.theatrecalgary.com/shows/2022-2023-little-women.