Hamilton thespians tackle ‘Little Women’ musical - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hamilton thespians tackle ‘Little Women’ musical

March 15th, 2019 development
Hamilton thespians tackle ‘Little Women’ musical

By Colleen Sparks, Managing Editor

Hamilton High School students will bring to life a story of closeknit sisters striving to find themselves and discover love during the Civil War in the musical “Little Women” next month.

While the local teens portray characters in a previous century, they are also embarking on their own journeys of self-improvement.

“Little Women” is a dramatic yet humorous musical based on the book Louisa May Alcott wrote in the 1960s about four sisters coming of age under the nurturing of their supportive mother while their father was away at war.

The sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – experience loss, heartbreak and other struggles while bonding with their friends and neighbors.

Hamilton High School Performing Arts Department will bring the musical to stage April 5-6 and April 11-13 on the campus at 3700 S. Arizona Ave.

“I was looking for a musical this year that would have a lot of female lead parts, which is actually a challenge to find,” said Christina Vail, a theater teacher and theater department chair who directs. “Then I was also looking for something that had really good music for the band to play.”

The musical is based on the book, but “they’ve modernized it a bit,” Vail said.

“We’ve been using the novel a lot for inspiration,” she said. “There are definitely things not written into the script that we’re adding in, intent and subtext and ideas. This is way more serious than what we normally do. We’re definitely finding there’s plenty of comedic moments in it. The highlight is the love stories happening,” she explained, adding:

“I knew the students would connect well with the concept of self-discovery … I thought the kids … would have a strong connection to the material. They’ve done a really fabulous job of it.”

Like the four sisters in the musical and novel, the students in the cast, as well as those in the tech crew and band, are trying to improve themselves. At every rehearsal they rate how they feel they are doing on reaching their personal goals.

Senior Destinee McCaster, 18, of Chandler, who plays the girls’ mother, said her self-improvement goal is to communicate more honestly, “being true to how I actually feel rather than putting on a face for somebody else.”

McCaster said this is her first time playing a mother in a musical and “it’s definitely more challenging than other roles I’ve played.”

It’s a lot of fun in terms of learning how to play someone like that but also getting to have a different kind of relationship,” she said.

McCaster said she and the other actresses wear big dresses with lots of layers and are learning how to hold them up so they don’t trip while walking. She said the costumes are “very intricate and elegant.”

“It’s not just a show where you’re gonna be laughing but it’s a show where you’ll likely cry, too,” McCaster said. “The talent range … is kind of staggering.”

Junior Riley Van Cleve, 17, of Chandler, plays Amy March, the youngest of the four sisters.

“In the first half of the show, Amy is very young and tends to be selfish and act spoiled,” Van Cleve said. “However, in the second half of the show, Amy comes back from Europe having grown into a graceful and compassionate young woman who looked out for those less fortunate than her.”

Even though the sisters lived in a time more than 100 years ago, it was not difficult playing Amy, Van Cleve said.

“Since I am the youngest sister in my own family, a lot of the situations Amy finds herself in are parallel to ones I’ve experienced with my own sister,” she said. “This show has so much heart to it. Despite being based on an older book, it’s a story that audiences from all walks of life can relate to in one way or another.”

Van Cleve said her self-improvement goal is to “be more honest with myself and towards others.”

“I think it’s very important to work on improving yourself because it helps everyone involved experience growth and align themselves with the message of this show,” she said.

Senior Shaun Dunn, 17, plays Professor Bhaer, the love interest of Jo March.

“It’s different than anything I’ve ever played before,” Dunn said. “With professor, he’s definitely more laidback, he spends a lot of time thinking. He’s always analyzing what’s going on around him, the best way to spend his time.”

Dunn said previously he played many comedy roles in musicals including Donkey in “Shrek,” but the professor is “methodical and middle-aged.”

He said his character helps Jo to “achieve her dreams.” The musical reveals habits of days gone-by including writing letters and responding to things differently than people do nowadays, Dunn said.

“It’s really interesting because there’s a lot of things that like, you wouldn’t think you would have to think about or do in the 21st century, how would someone from the mid-1800s respond to something that you wouldn’t respond to the same way now,” he said. “Jo becoming an author, that was like a totally different outlandish thing that everyone was like against.”

Dunn said his self-improvement goal is to “be more vulnerable in front of other people.”

“I have this problem with not letting others to help me out with things because that involves me having to tell them about the problem I’m having,” he said.

“Little Women” has a cast of 32 students, as well as 47 students working in the tech areas back stage and a band with 21 students playing music for the performance.

“I think all of us have really put a lot of ourselves into this production because of the connection with the material,” Vail said.

“Little Women” will be on stage at 7 p.m. all five days with a 2 p.m. matinee April 13. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

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