Lindsey Stewart, left, and Alex Donnan rehearse a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “Little Women” Tuesday night.
ALBANY For many holiday celebrants, family is an important component of the season.
It’s the time of year when siblings and children who have moved away or who have gotten intensely focused on their own lives make efforts to come together to remember Christmases of the past, holding to traditions that are life’s touchstones.
Artistic Director Mark Costello said strong family connections are at the heart of Theatre Albany’s December production of “Little Women,” a musical based on the beloved Civil War-era novel by Louisa May Alcott. The play, written by Allen Knee with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, debuted on Broadway in 2005.
“It’s a newer musical,” Costello said. “I thought definitely it being an American classic it would appeal to a larger audience.”
Those familiar with the book about the March family of Concord, Mass., know that it centers on the strong relationships between four sisters — Jo (portrayed by Lindsey Giddens Stewart in her Theatre Albany debut performance), Meg (Demi Davis), Beth (Emily Barnett) and Amy (Courtney Lawson).
Jo is an aspiring writer who has a unconventional modern-day approach toward life for a woman in the 1860s. She has no desire to be a housewife, but aspires to be a professional writer.
Costello says the character is “very strong willed. She writes stories, and she feels a very strong relationship with her sisters. She sees them as bonding together. Of course, their father is off in the war and it’s just the sisters and their mother (Marmee, played by Marcy McCarty). They do have an aunt nearby (played by Kathleen Stroup) and she’s wealthy, but she doesn’t necessarily provide for the family. They’re scraping together as best they can during the war.”
The play opens with Jo pursuing her dream in New York, then flashes back to earlier days in Concord.
Jo’s ahead-of-her-time character is appealing, Costello said, with a drive and independent streak that were unusual “for someone who’s not in a prominent position. She’s not a politician, she’s not a leader, she’s not what have you — she’s just a person. she’s opinionated about what she sees.”
Jo’s career largely mirrors that of the author, whose own career took off when she wrote the novel based on her family life.
“I just read the novel for the first time,” Costello said. “Growing up, you think, ‘Well, it’s a girls’ book.’ It really isn’t. It’s a lot about family, about life and how you deal with it.”
And that, he said, was a timely story for the holidays.
“Thinking about a show in terms of the holiday, I thought this would be a good one,” he said. “There’s a brief scene at the beginning that is Christmas time, but I think it’s something not specifically geared toward Christmas, but it’s geared for families to come and enjoy and see live theater together and have a good time.
“And I think that’s important. We’re so splintered now in terms of what our families do, and here is a play about a family that works together, stays together, works with each other, loves each other and just shows how wonderful that can be.”
The cast includes Alex Donnan as Laurie, Eddie McCarty as Mr. Laurence, Will Davis as Mr. Brooke and Bill Mackenzie as Professor Bhaer.
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 8 p.m. Dec. 15-17, and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18.
For ticket information, call the theater box office at (229) 439-7141.