‘Theater ain’t for the fainthearted’ : Fall musical a demanding and inspiring show

Photo by Cenn Hall.

This semester Bradleys theater department has spent countless hours rehearsing to bring one of Americas best-loved books to the stage.

Louisa May Alcotts 1869 novel Little Women chronicles the life of the March family especially Jo as they grow and change in Civil War-era New England. In 2005, the book was adapted into a Broadway musical.

Scott Kanoff, chair of Bradleys Department of Theater Arts, said Little Women was chosen as this seasons musical for a number of reasons.

The last couple of [musicals] we did were rock n roll shows Spring Awakening, High Fidelity We thought it would be good to do a more traditional score, Kanoff said. I thought its vocally very demanding. I wanted to do something that might include vocal performance majors, too, from the music department. Its good to have students outside of our department.

Senior theater arts major Cassy Lillwitz is taking on the lead role of Jo March a character she said has taught her a lot about integrity and strength.

No is never an answer to [Jo], and she refuses to take it as an answer if theres something she wants, Lillwitz said. We shy away from things in fear, doubt and insecurities. But if theres something you really want, youve got to just go for it, and I find that inspiring Ive honestly been so encouraged by discovering who Jo is.

Little Women is one of the departments costliest shows in recent history, according to Kanoff.

The scale of the show and bringing this world to the stage has been very labor-intensive. Our designers are knocking themselves out, Kanoff said. We decided to rent the costumes from a costume house in Chicago, which we dont normally do. But this show is such a distinct period, and there are so many characters and costume changes We really went all out.

Because of the immense commitment, Little Women has high demands for its cast and crew. Kanoff said everybody involved is extraordinary.

Theatre aint for the fainthearted, he said.

Lillwitz attended rehearsal six days of the week, for four or more hours each day, to prepare for her role.

The work happens outside of class and outside of rehearsal, Lillwitz said. I go home and work on research, memorizing lines, and thats an extra two hours a day I may not necessarily have.

Though the journey meant a long eight weeks of rehearsals, Lillwitz said she wouldnt trade the experience for anything in the world.

My why now is the darkness that we have going on in this world right now is heartbreaking, she said. I think a show like this that has heartbreak in it but also a character that pushes through the darkness and never ceases to want the hope and the positivity on the other side, is something that is very encouraging.

Little Women is directed by Chad Bradford, a guest director from New York. It runs until Oct. 29, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees beginning at 2 p.m. Student tickets are $5, and general public tickets are $12. Call (309) 677-2650 to purchase tickets.