By George Basler

A decade ago, SRO Productions III staged a musical version of Little Women, and it was a solid smash. The performances sold out, and the company added a third week of shows to meet the demand.

Now, 10 years later, the company is reviving the show in a new production to run June 3-12 at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson City.

“It seems like the perfect time to revisit the show,” said Scott Fisher, who is directing the 10-person cast.
Fisher also directed the show 10 years ago. At that time, the musical wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar, he said. While it received mixed to positive reviews when it appeared on Broadway in 2005, it wasn’t a hit.

Since then, however, the show has grown in popularity with community and high school productions taking place across the country. “It’s regularly among the most popular shows rented out. It’s kind of a cult favorite,” Fisher said. He believes one reason for the popularity is became the musical plays better in a smaller, intimate space, such as the Firehouse Stage, as opposed to a large Broadway theater.

Reviewers made the same point when Little Women played on Broadway 17 years ago. “This chamber-size musical pulses with a generous affection for its source material and a refreshing realization that Broadway audiences don’t always need to be wowed,” Eric Grode wrote in his review.

The musical, with a book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, sticks close to Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel about the four March sisters and their beloved mother, Marmee, at home in Concord, Mass. while their father is away serving as a Union Army chaplain during the Civil War.

SRO had the idea of reviving Little Women after auditions for Tuck Everlasting this past winter brought out many outstanding singers are in the age range of Alcott’s characters, Fisher said.

While the musical doesn’t have the texture of the novel, it hits all the well know plot points that audience members will recognize from the novel and numerous film adaptations, he noted.

“What surprised me the first time around is how funny it is, its humor arising natural situations and recognizable moments,” he said.

Most importantly, the show has gorgeous music, Fisher said There are “beautiful ballads that stab at your heart” and up-tempo numbers written with a nod to the musical styles of the time period in which Little Women is set.
The central role of Jo is being played by Sarah Wallikas, who graduated this year from Binghamton University with a dual major in theater and English. At BU she acted in several shows. She also has done community theater work, including playing Miss Honey in SRO’s
production of Matilda.

Wallikas said she looked forward to playing the role of Jo ever since the cast was announced. She was familiar with the story and finds the music of the show “so appealing.” In fact, Marmee’s “Home Alone” was one of her first solos in school when she was 15.

“As a woman, the work highlights how, even though each of the March girls’ strengths take different forms and they all have different aspirations, these strengths and aspirations all have value,” Wallikas said.

She thinks Alcott’s work has survived because she writes in a style that transcends the time in which it was written. “The way she handles her characters, and their nuances, feels very contemporary and accessible in a way that not many of the works have maintained over the years,” she said. “It’s about how time can evolve and shift the relationships within the family dynamic, but how, at the core of that change, is love.”

While she’s excited about her role, it is a challenging one, Wallikas added. She barely has a chance to leave the stage, and that’s incredibly daunting, she said: “As silly as it may sound, going in, I treated my preparation for the show like I was training for a marathon.”

The role of Marmee is being played by Laura Sikes, who played the same role 10 years ago. Anne Trebilcock, who did the choreography 10 years ago, is involved with this production as well.

Hilary Rozek is doing the musical direction and will be conducting an ensemble of a violin, cello, bass and piano.
“I’m working with great actors and a great creative team behind the scenes,” Fisher said, adding that he is thrilled to be doing Little Women again.

IF YOU GO: SRO Productions III will stage
Little Women June 3-12 at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46 Willow St., Johnson City. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets at $20 and $25 can be ordered on SRO’s website:

Audience members are asked to wear masks except when eating and drinking.