For the fourth year in a row, The WordPlayers are bringing a musical production to the historic Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story about the adventures of the four March sisters will be brought to life this weekend in Little Women: The Broadway Musical.
It’s fitting that this particular production, being based on a novel that’s all about family, is in many ways a family affair. The show is being directed by veteran WordPlayer Terri Lloyd, and her husband Matthew is the Stage Manager. Lloyd also has four children and a niece involved in the musical, which premieres this Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re not a regular family,” says Lloyd. “Regular families go to soccer practice. We take broadsword lessons.” Lessons that came in handy when choreographing a fight scene written by the headstrong Jo March, the second of the four siblings.
Lloyd has been working with the WordPlayers for over seventeen years, both as thespian and director, but this is her first time piloting a musical. She sees herself as more of an actress than a singer, and she felt a little unqualified when first asked to direct the show, but sharing the classic story with Knoxville felt so important to her that she agreed to take the job anyway. As she was exploring where to begin, producer and WordPlayers Artistic Director Terry Weber advised her to start how the company always does: by finding the most talented people to work with. For Lloyd that meant employing the best musical director she could dig up. Enter, Braxton Kiser, whom Lloyd met through the WordPlayers’ production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in 2013. Kiser felt the perfect fit, bringing both acting and directing skills to blend with his musical talent and youthful leadership.
“He’s a real wonderkid,” said Weber, praising Kiser’s commanding presence during the sitzprobe. “For such a young guy, he really knows how to get the best out of both the actors and the musicians.”
Next year will mark the sesquicentennial anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. The musical premiered on Broadway just twelve years ago, with Allan Knee writing the book, Mindi Dickstein penning the lyrics, and Jason Howland composing the music. The chemistry in the Knoxville iteration is palpable, with Casey Maxwell, Gracie Belt, Christina Ledbetter, and Tori Beth Sullivan playing the March sisters.
The musical will run Friday through Sunday, with both a matinee and an evening show on Saturday. Tickets are available at the Bijou Theatre website, or by calling 865-684-1200.