Setting a beloved Civil War novel that has been an icon of feminine juvenility for generations to music was asking for trouble, as central plot details had to be glossed after (funny how few people cared with “Les Miz, ” but then, how many people actually read Victor Hugo?) leaving only the emotional core of Louisa May Alcott’s characters exposed through musical melodrama. Maureen McGovern, the Celine Dion of the 1970s (or is Dion the McGovern of the 1990s, since both made careers on huge “boat” hits?) made it all work by giving her glorious pipes a workout that sustained a touring version of this show long after it closed its run on Broadway. Almost as memorable from that production was the virtually cinematic way that entire sets would come and go to streamline the action. Unfortunately, Marriott Theatre’s square stage and audience-surrounded aisles with, in this case, a distracting lack of attention to set details— beach scenes are done on a staircase with seagulls and waves piped in through the sound system—and very static direction make this an immensely dull affair. Even the little girls brought in by dutiful mothers were doing their best to stay awake during this behemoth of boredom, which is unable to differentiate its characters via acting nor singing so has to rely on color-coded dresses to even remotely tell the bland sisters apart, even from their mother. The elaborate orchestration of this traditional musical, such a vital component in the original production, is also poorly served with cheesily synthesized strings. Mothers, do your daughters a favor and buy your daughters the book instead: you enjoyed it, so will they. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, (847)634-0200. This production is now closed.