Theater & Dance
Preview
"Little Women"

By: Book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott

Produced by: TheatreWorks

Featuring: Elizabeth Ward Land as Marmee, Emily Koch as Jo, Sharon Rietkerk as Meg, Julia Belanoff as Beth, Arielle Fishman as Amy, Matt Dengler as Laurie,Christopher Vettel as Professor Bhaer, Elizabeth Palmer as Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk, Richard Farrell as Mr. Laurence and Justin Buchs as John Brooke

Directed by: Robert Kelley

When: December 4, 2013-January 4, 2014

Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California

Tickets: $19-$79 (discounts available). Visit www.theatreworks.org/shows/1314-season/littlewomen or call 650-463-1960

Read John Orr's review of this show.

On 'Little Women'
We asked, how'd you feel about the book? We got a few replies

"It was so long ago I don't remember that much about it, but I do remember really resonating with the character of Jo, and finding her tough, resilient, fearless nature very inspiring."

Valerie Vigoda
Lyricist, writer, musician, California


"I read it a few times when I was a kid. I identified with the character of Jo ... I'm sure I'm not the only one. She sounded beautiful to me and just the kind of girl I wanted to be — smart, generous, and not too girly. I haven't read the book for 35+ years and I still think about the part where she cuts her hair to sell."

Virginia Bock
Communications associate, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford


"I loved the story because I have three sisters, and Louisa May Alcott did a wonderful job portraying how sisters can be so different, but still love each other with all their hearts."

Jane Bettys Fryer
librarian, Michigan


"I never read it. I don't read books that make me cry! One of the sisters dies in the book. I thought it would be much too sad!"

Patti Berryhill
landscaper designer,
Menlo Park

Arielle
Tracy Martin / TheatreWorks
Matt Dengler as Laurie, left, with Arielle Fishman as Amy in the TheatreWorks production of the musical "Little Women," running December 4, 2013, through January 4, 2014, at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.
Arielle and Amy,
realizing their dreams
Arielle Fishman grew up in Palo Alto, loving musicals and loving TheatreWorks; now she is one of the four March sisters in the musical 'Little Women' at TheatreWorks

December 6, 2013

On the phone, full of excitement, charm, intelligence, wisdom, excitement, humor, excitement and more excitement, Arielle Fishman talked so fast that I sprained three fingers and a shoulder typing my notes, trying to keep up with her.

A delightful experience.

Fishman is someone who has known what she wants to do since she was six years old, and now, at 20, is well on her way, and fully appreciative of the opportunity she was given when TheatreWorks cast her as Amy, youngest of the March sisters, in its holiday musical, "Little Women."

Growing up in Palo Alto, Fishman as a little girl was always walking around the house singing songs from the movie musicals her mom, Susie, watched.

"Theater has just always been something I loved," she said during our phone call last week, "even before I knew that professional acting was a thing. I loved movie musicals, my mom loved them, I'd walk around the house singing."

When she was six, she was cast in a Palo Alto perennial, "The Ugly Duckling."

"A parent said, 'Do you want to be on Broadway?' I didn't know what it was," said Fishman. "But I went home, and we had this CD, 'The Broadway Kids.' And I found out about this incredible theater world in New York City, and I grew up with the idea of performing ... I asked my mom to take me to shows."

So she grew up making good use of what is available to children in Palo Alto — performing with Peninsula Youth Theatre in "Les Misérables," "Annie," "Beauty and the Beast," "Stuart Little" and "The Wizard of Oz," and going to see how the pros do it in shows at TheatreWorks and elsewhere.

She also landed some roles at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City, in "The Fantastics," "Man of La Mancha" "Babes in Hollywood."

"I was the only kid in two of those shows," said Fishman.

After graduating from Palo Alto High School in 2011, Fishman went to USC.

We didn't discuss it, but in some Paly circles, her going to USC is like Captain America defecting to Russia. Very weird. After all, Stanford University is right across the street from Paly.

Still. Fishman's had a good time at the University of Southern California, where she is a junior, majoring in theater, and having the opportunity to work in various roles in three productions a year. She's helped produce a show, has worked as an artistic director and has been part of the casting process, as well as acting in shows.

Plus, nearby is the USC film school, so she's been able to be a part of some video productions, such as "101 Ways to Get Rejected," soon to be on YouTube, "about high schoolers."

But while doing all that, Fishman kept an eye out for any news about TheatreWorks.

"I always look to see what TheatreWorks' season will be. I follow their website carefully. I was checking every few hours to see if they posted. When I saw what they were doing, I texted my mom immediately. 'Mom, TheatreWorks is doing "Little Women!"'

"I didn't know if they would be casting non-Equity. I didn't know if I even had a chance."

She came back to the Bay Area for a couple of days, to audition, sitting down with legendary TheatreWorks Casting Director and Associate Artistic Director Leslie Martinson.

"It was a wonderful experience," said Fishman. "She actually did a reading with me. It's really nice to read opposite the casting director. It really feels like connecting, rather than just having them just watch.

"When I found out I got it, I was ecstatic! I couldn't wait for November to come!

This "Little Women," based on the book by Louisa May Alcott, with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland, and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, ran on Broadway for about four months in 2005. Reviewers and audiences had some admiration and some frustration with it. It is, basically, an intimate show, not meant for a huge Broadway theater and full orchestra.

TheatreWorks Music Director Billy Liberatore told Joanne Engelhardt, who was writing for The Daily News, "It was in a big theater with a large orchestra, which sometimes made the songs have a masculine sound. While I loved the score, it just didn't feel right to me. We're scaling it down from that big Broadway sound, which I didn't think was right for this small, charming story. On Broadway they tried to be huge, which, I feel, was artistically wrong."

For TheatreWorks, the orchestra will have five seats: keyboard, French horn, cello, violin and woodwinds (clarinet, oboe and flute).

And a cast full of fine singers, including Arielle Fishman.

"It's an incredible opportunity," she said. "I was so lucky to find out about the show. I love 'Little Women,' loved the soundtrack, have seen a bunch of the movies, read the book when I was a little girl, and loved it.

"It's such an honor. I feel grateful to TheatreWorks."

She had some school issues to take care of — and will be flying back to L.A. in a week or so to take a couple of finals, but has been delighted to be back in Palo Alto for a while.

"I hadn't spent much time at home recently," she said. "It's refreshing to come home to fresh air and trees in Palo Alto."

She's staying with her family, in Palo Alto, not all that far from the Lucie Stern Theatre, where "Little Women" is being staged. Her dad, Robert, is in drug development. Her mom, Susie, works for a start-up. Sister Chloe is a junior at Paly, and brother Alec is in his first year at the University of Wisconsin.

"We just got a dog," she said. "A puggle puppy. Half pug, half beagle. He's a little hyper. His name is Rocco."

Like almost every other actor I've interviewed who was involved with a TheatreWorks show, she is very impressed by the company Robert Kelley built.

Little Women
Fumiko Bielefeldt / TheatreWorks
One of Fumiko Bielefeldt's design illustrations for the character of Amy, for the TheatreWorks production of "Little Women."

She very much likes, for instance, Jill Bowers and Noah Marin in the costume department, whose job it is to fit Fishman in the costumes designed by Fumiko Bielefeldt.

Bielefeldt's design sketches hang in the rehearsal spaces, which Fishman said helped her develop her ideas about the character she plays, Amy, the youngest March sister.

And the costumes are magnificent.

"It's a great honor for me to parade around on stage with her artwork on," Fishman said.

Fishman had previously worked with TheatreWorks Music Director Billy Liberatore — pretty much everybody who is serious about stage music or classical music in Palo Alto has worked with Liberatore. In Fishman's case, Liberatore was her vocal coach for a musical theater conservatory not long ago.

"I adore the man. He's so funny, so full of light and life. ... And he's such a talent. He has great insight, not just based in the music, but in real understanding of the character. And in what will play for an audience. A musical genius."

And, of course, there is Kelley himself, who is directing this show.

"It's such an honor" to work with Kelley, said Fishman, reeling off a long list of plays she's seen that Kelley directed. "It is so clear that he's been a director for so many years. He knows his stuff, and is a wonderful collaborator, open to actors' insights about characters.

"We did a few days of table work, discussing different interpretations of the characters. Kelley really wants an open dialogue about the story we are telling. ...

"We feel like a close group, aware of what each other is trying to accomplish. Kelley is so much fun, he's so kind. he works in a professional manner, but he's always ready for some fun."

At "almost five-foot-one — I'm five feet and three-quarters of an inch," she said, Fishman is petite, and a good size to play the youngest of the March sisters.

"I'm in flats at the beginning of the show," Fishman said. "In Act II, when she is a grown woman, I get a little heel."

"Amy is a lot of fun" to play, Fishman said. "She's a very complicated character. As a young girl, she appears selfish. But as the show progresses, we learn she is more than that, that more than anything she wants to love and please people.

"It's almost like playing two characters. There really is a striking difference between Act I Amy and Act II Amy. In Act I, she is bratty and selfish, because she's frustrated that her family is poor and she doesn't get the attention she wants ... but when she returns home from Europe after her experience with high society, a more mature person, she is able to better express her love ...

"It's so beautiful. Everybody wishes they could be part of the March family. Through it all they love each other and have fun. Their greatest joy is each other. There is a great amount of empathy and personality among the four, wonderful qualities to embody.

"Amy's journey is a wonderful one to go on, as she matures and comes into her own. As a young girl, she has lofty dreams, which she is able to realize."

Arielle
Mark Kitaoka / TheatreWorks
Julia Belanoff as Beth, left, with Arielle Fishman as Amy in the TheatreWorks production of the musical "Little Women," running December 4, 2013, through January 4, 2014, at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.
Arielle
Mark Kitaoka / TheatreWorks
Matt Dengler as Laurie, left, and Arielle Fishman as Amy in the TheatreWorks production of the musical "Little Women," running December 4, 2013, through January 4, 2014, at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.
Little Women
Tracy Martin / TheatreWorks
The cast of the TheatreWorks production of "Little Women," clockwise from left: Arielle Fishman as Amy, Elizabeth Ward Land as Marmee, Sharon Rietkerk as Meg, Emily Koch as Jo, and Julia Belanoff as Beth. The holiday musical plays December 4 through January 4, 2014, at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.


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