Time again for my weekly Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser. This Friday I reviewed Little Women: The Musical and the off-Broadway revival of Hurlyburly, and I seem to have cut sharply against the grain of critical wisdom as regards the former:
Sutton Foster is a gawky, gamine version of the young Judy Garland whom the Great Producer Upstairs clearly intended for a revival of Jerome Robbins’ “Peter Pan.” Until somebody down here gets the message, though, I’ll make do with “Little Women: The Musical,” the immensely likable stage adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 1867 novel that just opened at the Virginia Theatre. Ms. Foster, lately of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” plays Jo, the bookwormy tomboy who “reminded one of a colt,” and gets her just right. She’s not an immaculate singer–her voice is raw on top–but her spunky charm and hell-for-leather energy are impossible to resist. I didn’t even try. Ms. Foster caught my heart on a short string the second the curtain went up, and I twitched at her command all night long.
Apparently I’m one of the few people in America who has neither read “Little Women” nor seen any of the countless stage and screen versions that preceded this one. A quick riffle through the book, though, made it clear that Allan Knee has not only slashed it to ribbons but modernized the dialogue extensively, if not egregiously (the punchlines are all his). In addition, he has turned “Little Women” into a meta-narrative about the writing of “Little Women”: Jo, an aspiring author who launches her literary career by churning out swashbuckling tales for the Weekly Volcano, decides to fictionalize her own family life, and the show reaches its climax when she takes pen in hand to write the first chapter of the story we’ve just seen played out on stage. It’s a clever idea, and if the result is more a filet than a full-fledged fish, it still zips along with confidence and skill….
I also had good things to say about Hurlyburly:
It’s a grimly funny tale of cocaine and its discontents, written and set in Hollywood in the early ’80s and horrifyingly reminiscent in every particular of what I now think of as the Age of Jay McInerney.
I didn’t see Mike Nichols’ 1984 production, which had an awesome cast–William Hurt, Judith Ivey, Harvey Keitel, Cynthia Nixon, Ron Silver, Jerry Stiller and Sigourney Weaver, believe it or not–but I can’t imagine how this one, directed with surgical precision by Scott Elliott, could be bettered. Ethan Hawke, for one, is breathtakingly fine as Eddie, the drug-sodden, woman-hating casting director on whose tortured soul the California sun has set, and Halley Wegryn Gross, Catherine Kellner and Parker Posey are nicely matched as the three women who skitter across his zigzag path….
No link–you’ve got to pay to read the whole thing. Why not shell out for today’s Journal and find out while you’re at it how we cover the other arts? Or go the whole hog by clicking here. Either way, you won’t be sorry….