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‘Little Women’ heroines jump from page to stage in OCU opera

An acclaimed operatic version of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel “Little Women” will be presented Feb. 18-20 by Oklahoma City University’s award-winning Opera and Music Theater Company.

The Bass School of Music presents the OCU debut of Mark Adamo’s 1998 opera, bringing the heroines Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg from page to stage with a cast of 22, custom costumes and full orchestrations.

Alexander Mickelthwate, music director of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, will conduct. Karen Coe Miller will present a free director’s talk 45 minutes before curtain.

Hailed as “a masterpiece” by The New York Times, the opera will be presented at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 and 19, with a 3 p.m. Feb. 20 matinee, on OCU’s historic Kirkpatrick Auditorium stage, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave.

A “Little Women”-themed opening night dinner will be held 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in the atrium of the Bass Music Center. Tickets to the dinner and performances are available by calling 405-208-5227 or online at okcu.edu/tickets.

In the century and a half since its publication, Alcott’s American coming-of-age novel has inspired at least seven stage interpretations, seven movies, a Broadway musical and numerous television interpretations. Adamo’s opera was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and has been nationally broadcast on NPR and PBS.

“Unlike many adaptations of ‘Little Women,’ Adamo focuses on Jo’s battle with time as she watches her sisters grow,” Miller said. Marked by humor and tenderness, the opera “explores the joys of family connections and the inevitable feelings of loss in the face of change.”

“Little Women” will be performed in English with supertitles projected above the stage. OCU’s production features costume design by Rachel Barnett, lighting design by Graham Darnell and set design by Larry Heyman.

Gramophone magazine praises the score as “a simple but intense stream of appealing tunes and uncomplicated harmonies ranging from 20th century psychological anguish to Broadway melodies. The composer’s libretto captures much of the grace and fluency of Alcott’s writing.”

OCU’s Opera & Music Theater Company - the world’s oldest campus-based troupe performing both art forms -has been honored with 11 National Opera Association Production Awards in the past nine seasons. In back-to-back years, Playbill recognized Oklahoma City University as a “Big 10” school for training performers for Broadway and beyond.

The Company’s 70th consecutive season of opera and music theater continues with two 21st century musicals:

  • “Legally Blonde,” Feb. 25-27

OCU’s Spotlight musicals return with “Legally Blonde,” inspired by the 2001 film of the same name, in Burg Theatre.

In a 2020 review, Broadway World noted that “‘Legally Blonde the Musical’ is a show that stays true to what makes this cult-classic film so beloved — and in doing so, is just as relevant and timely in 2020 as the movie was in 2001.”

The Spotlight production will be directed by David Herendeen, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary as director of opera and music theater, with music direction by Chuck Koslowske.

  • “In the Heights,” April 22-24

The grand finale of OCU’s 70th season is the 2005 Lin-Manuel Miranda musical “In the Heights,” winner of four Tony Awards — including Best Musical — and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

The production on the Kirkpatrick mainstage will be led by guest director Luis Salgado of the Broadway cast, with Matthew Mailman as music director.

Drama critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times notes, “When this musical erupts in one of its expressions of collective joy, the energy it gives off could light up the George Washington Bridge for a year or two.”

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