August 30, 2008, Arrow Rock, Missouri.  Like most boys, I failed to read Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women.  Okay, to be fair, a slight elaboration is needed. I failed to summon the interest in reading it.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that we were going to drive 744 miles (one way) to see a musical based on the book. The musical production of this story was staged at the Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Missouri. The theatre is a refurbished church and sits on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River valley. Lewis & Clark stopped there according to the historical markers.

Arrow Rock is a charming though obscure tourist village configured with a handfull of antique shops, B & B’s, and minor eateries. The town was a mid-19th century river port. Numerous warehouses and transport operations were once in operation. Eventually, the town went into a prolonged quiescent phase with the coming of rail transport. As if to cement its extinction, the Missouri River later changed its course and moved a mile away.

The town is now part of the Arrow Rock State Historic Site. The historic site status of the area has brought some traffic into this sleepy little hamlet.

And then there is the Lyceum Theatre. What is notable about this Theatre is not so much the setting as the quality of the actors it attracts. The productions are Actors Equity operations and the casting calls are in New York City. The actors fly in and reside in a dormitory in Arrow Rock for the duration of the production.

The result is a musical talent pool of high quality. We found the production of Little Women to be cleanly energetic and very crisp.  The stagecraft was very professional and relied on a liberal use of scrims and lighting.

The vocal talent across the cast was superb. The actor playing sister and lead character “Jo” was Mallory Hawks. She captured considerable depth in the part and displayed a verve that never failed to charm. This actor’s voice was exceptionally strong and clear. She was cannily emotive and lead the audience through an emotional series of highs and lows during the performance. I wish her well in her career.

For accomodations I would recommend the Down Over Bed and Breakfast in Arrow Rock. It is run by a charming retired couple who present a fantastic breakfast spread. It is reasonably priced and provides a relaxing setting for chronically twittered city folk.

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