Little Women
Based on Louisa May Alcott's American classic, this Civil War story of love and family stands the test of time.
Show Essentials
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Full Synopsis

Act One

1865, New York City.

Josephine (Jo) March is living in Mrs. Kirk's boarding house while trying to sell her stories to publications. Professor Bhaer, another tenant in the boarding house, informs Jo that a letter arrived for her. Jo reads it and finds herself disappointed. It is another rejection from a publisher. Jo asks Professor Bhaer if she can read him one of her stories for his opinion. He agrees, so she begins.

("An Operatic Tragedy") The story begins with a thunderstorm as the story's heroine, Clarissa, is running across the coastal heath, trying to escape the clutches of the evil Braxton Prendergast. Just when it seems that Clarissa cannot escape Braxton's clutches, the handsome and bold Rodrigo appears. He comes to kill Rodrigo and...

Professor Bhaer suddenly interrupts Jo and wonders aloud what it is that she is writing. "Blood and guts stuff," she replies. Professor Bhaer tells her that she is a unique woman, vivacious and outspoken, but her stories seem to conform to what she thinks the public wants to hear. He says that she can do better and walks away. Jo can't comprehend this, saying that her stories were a great success back home in Concord, Massachusetts ("Better").

We are then back at the March household, two years earlier. We meet Jo's sisters, Meg, Beth and Amy. Jo tells them that she has written a piece to perform for Christmas and tries to convince them of its impending success. The sisters are won over and they begin to rehearse ("Our Finest Dreams"). Jo exclaims that she is bursting with energy and asks for tasks to do. Beth asks for their father to be home from the war; Meg wants to be invited to the Valentine's Day ball; Amy wants a Christmas tree. Jo obliges and runs out the door to chop one down, from across the street, at Mr. Laurence's house.

As Jo leaves, Marmee enters. Marmee, the March girls' mother and pillar of the family, wants to know everything that the girls did that day. The girls begin to tell her about the play that Jo has written but, before they can get far enough, Jo walks in with a fir tree. She announces that she has cut it down from Mr. Laurence's estate, but Marmee demands that it be taken back. Beth suggests that they could at least give the tree to the Hummel family, since they are so poor.

As Marmee agrees to this action, Mr. Laurence walks in, demanding that Jo repay him. When Jo agrees, Mr. Laurence walks out, leaving his grandson, Laurie. Laurie awkwardly introduces himself to Jo and confides that he thought what she did was brave. Jo asks Laurie to give the fir tree to the Hummel family. Laurie happily agrees.

Following the introduction, a letter arrives from Mr. March. The girls all gather around Marmee as she reads the letter aloud. Mr. March says that the war continues, but assures that he is well and that he sends his love to the girls. The girls, relieved, disperse to their rooms, leaving Marmee alone. Marmee sings to her absent husband about the difficulties of raising their daughters by herself ("Here Alone").

A few days later, Jo goes to her Aunt March's house. Aunt March wishes to have Jo take her place in society, much to Jo's disdain. Aunt March then tempts Jo with the offer of going to Europe with her, but only if she promises to change her ways and become more like a proper lady ("Could You").

A month later, Jo and Meg are preparing to go to the Valentine's Day Ball. Jo feels uncomfortable in her dress, but Meg is absolutely terrified of going to her first ball. Marmee calms her down and takes her through all of the steps of being at a ball ("Delighted").

Amy walks in, wearing a gown that is too big on her, but ready to go to the ball. Marmee tells Amy that she wasn't invited, and so she can't go to the ball. Amy asks to take Jo's invitation since she cares about society and Jo doesn't. Jo and Amy then get into a fight, with Amy mocking Jo's stories and Jo stealing Amy's fan to bring with her to the ball. At that moment, Jo and Meg leave and say goodnight. Amy, bitter and angry, takes Jo's portfolio of stories and throws it into the fire.

At the ball, Jo accidentally spills punch on another guest and decides to step out for a moment with Meg, whereupon they meet Laurie again, who has been sleeping on a chaise. Mr. Brooke, Laurie's tutor, comes in to tell Laurie that his grandfather wants him to meet more important people. Before he can take Laurie away, though, Mr. Brooke meets Meg and is smitten. He asks her to dance, and they walk away, leaving Jo and Laurie alone.

Laurie is absolutely smitten with Jo. Wanting to be around her more often, he offers his companionship ("Take a Chance on Me"). Jo finds Laurie's enthusiasm entertaining and decides to accept him as her new friend, challenging him to a race across the pond the next day. Laurie accepts and they, along with Meg and Mr. Brooke, go back to the March house.

To Marmee's surprise, Meg enters with a sprained ankle, in the arms of Mr. Brooke. After he and Laurie leave, Meg, transfixed, announces that she went to the ball a girl, but came home a woman. As she goes off to bed, Amy and Jo make up and Jo goes off to finish one of her manuscripts, only to discover that it's gone. She runs after Amy, who proudly announces that she burned the story. Marmee scolds Amy that she did an intolerable thing and demands that Jo and Amy live together with respect. Amy runs off as Jo sits on the stairs, dejected ("Better – Reprise"). Just then, Jo is struck by another idea for a story.

A few days later, Laurie convinces Jo to come skate with him, declaring that he will win one of their races before the winter is over. Jo accepts and races Laurie out the door. Beth, at the piano, convinces Amy to go to the pond and skate with Laurie and Jo as a treaty with Jo, giving Amy her ice skates.

Just then, Mr. Laurence comes in. Laurie told him that Beth wants to play his wife's piano, which he had locked up after she passed away. Nonetheless, Beth amuses him and they play a ditty on her piano ("Off to Massachusetts"). Mr. Laurence tells Beth that, if she comes to his house tomorrow, he will unlock the piano so that she can play it before exiting.

Jo and Laurie come bursting through the door. Amy fell through the ice while trying to skate with Jo and Laurie. Amy and Jo finally forgive each other, and Laurie, who saved Amy from the ice, is made an honorary March brother ("Five Forever").

That spring, Marmee heads off to Washington to take care of Mr. March, who has fallen ill with pneumonia. Amy is being sent to Aunt March's house while Marmee is gone, and Jo has been asked to go to Aunt March's to ask for money so that Marmee can get to Washington. Jo returns with the money, but not from Aunt March. Jo says that she could not make the request, revealing that she sold her own hair to get the money. Marmee takes the money and heads for the train station. Aunt March comes to pick up Amy, furious that Jo has cut and sold her hair. Claiming that Jo has not lived up to her end of the bargain, Aunt March cancels the trip to Europe for Jo. Furious, Jo runs upstairs as Amy collects the rest of her things.

Mr. Brooke arrives for Meg, telling her that he has enlisted in the army. He asks Meg if she will marry him when he returns from the war, and Meg happily accepts ("More Than I Am"). Jo returns, but is upset with Meg's engagement, stating that Meg has turned her back on their agreement never to leave one another. She flees to the attic, where Laurie meets her.

Laurie tells Jo that, since the war is over, his grandfather is making him go to college next year. Jo finds this news to be wonderful, but Laurie is unhappy. He doesn't want to go because he will miss her too much. Laurie kisses Jo and asks her to marry him. Confused by the sudden change in their friendship, Jo rejects Laurie's proposal, saying that she will never marry. She asks Laurie to leave, which he does. Upset that everything is changing in her life, Jo decides that she can no longer stay in Concord and must fulfill her dream to be a great writer ("Astonishing").

Act Two

We are now back to where we began, in Mrs. Kirk's boarding house in New York City. Mrs. Kirk asks Professor Bhaer where Jo is – she has received a telegram from home. Jo appears and announces ecstatically that she has just sold a story to the Weekly Volcano Press! It is the same operatic tragedy of Clarissa that she had written before but, to greater effect this time, she has focused on the story and characters ("The Weekly Volcano Press").

Once Jo has recounted how she sold her story, Mrs. Kirk gives Jo the telegram. Jo reads that Beth has become very ill. Devastated, she insists on going to her.

Back in Concord, Mr. Laurence and Mr. Brooke (who is now married to Meg) decide to surprise Beth by giving her Mr. Laurence's piano. Beth is delighted and plays with Mr. Laurence once more ("Off to Massachusetts – Reprise"). Mr. Broke announces that he received a letter from Laurie when he was in New York. Jo, who returned from New York just a few days earlier, is surprised that Laurie was in New York and did not contact her. The mention of the letter, however, only makes Jo miss New York, rather than Laurie.

Jo writes Professor Bhaer an update on her family, including Meg's pregnancy. She ends her letter by asking how he is. Subsequently, Professor Bhaer confesses that his life has gone on as usual, but it has been quiet since she left ("How I Am").

That September, Jo and Marmee take Beth to the beach. Jo brings along a kite for her and Beth to fly. Marmee leaves the two alone, and Beth asks Jo to entertain her with more descriptions about New York. As the mood becomes more somber, Jo confesses that Beth is her special someone in the world. Beth tells Jo that she knows she will die and is not afraid. She is only afraid of leaving her sisters behind. She tells Jo to let her go and die peacefully ("Some Things Are Meant to Be").

The following winter, Beth passes. Amy returns from Europe with Aunt March as a full-grown woman. Everyone is excited to see Amy and surprised to find that Laurie is with her. Amy explains that they unexpectedly saw each other in Europe, surprisingly fell in love... and are now engaged ("The Most Amazing Thing"). Jo is surprised, but very happy and supportive of the two, officially welcoming Laurie into the family.

Jo then goes up to the attic, where Marmee follows her. Jo confesses that she cannot write anymore since Beth died. Jo now regrets going to New York and not being there for the family; she asks Marmee how she can be strong and wise like her. Marmee tells Jo that she has to believe there is a reason for hope ("Days of Plenty"). Alone in the attic, Jo wonders how she can move on until she is inspired by Beth's memory to write a story about their family ("The Fire within Me").

That spring, on the day of Amy and Laurie's wedding, Jo runs into Aunt March. Aunt March tells Jo that she does not think she made a mistake, as Laurie and Amy are a perfect match. However, Aunt March has gone over her will. In times like these, Jo needs something to fall back on. Aunt March informs Jo that she will receive her house, suggesting that she turn it into a library or a school. Jo respectfully accepts Aunt March's offer.

Following the acceptance, Professor Bhaer arrives. He tells Jo that he came to visit her, since he missed her back in New York. They both admit that they have been thinking of one another in a fond way. They agree that they are nothing alike, but are willing to accept this in order to be with each other ("Small Umbrella in the Rain"). Professor Bhaer then confesses that he gave his copy of Jo's novel to a publisher... who wants to publish it!

Jo introduces Professor Bhaer to Marmee, who brings Professor Bhaer in to meet the family. Jo, alone, embraces the fact that her dreams came true ("Volcano – Reprise"). Professor Bhaer then comes out to tell Jo that they are waiting for her inside. Jo smiles and takes his hand as they head inside with the family.



Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Jo March
Our story's protagonist. Passionate, adventurous, and brave. She has the idea of writing Little Women and eventually becomes engaged to Professor Bhaer.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 23
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: E3
Professor Bhaer
German Professor who exemplifies proper manners. He is a boarder in Mrs. Kirk's boarding house and eventually falls in love with Jo.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 45
Vocal range top: F#4
Vocal range bottom: G2
Amy March
The youngest, most energetic sister with a rather pompous air about her. She later marries Laurie. Can double as Troll.
Gender: female
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: Gb5
Vocal range bottom: -1
Meg March
The world-weary, yet hopeful, oldest sister who yearns for a great life. She marries John and has twins with him. Can double as Clarissa.
Gender: female
Age: 21 to 25
Vocal range top: Gb5
Vocal range bottom: A#3
Beth March
The second youngest sister who tragically dies of Scarlet Fever. Peace-maker, lover, and an optimist who is always encouraging her sisters to dream. Can double as Rodrigo II.
Gender: female
Age: 17 to 21
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Marmee March
The girls' mother. She is the strong backbone of the family, who is courageous in spite of the difficult odds she faces. Can double as Hag.
Gender: female
Age: 45 to 55
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: Eb3
Mr. Laurence
Laurie Laurence
The bright-eyed boy-next-door with considerable charm. He loves Jo but later falls in love with Amy.
Gender: male
Age: 18 to 23
Vocal range top: Bb4
Vocal range bottom: Bb2
Aunt March
A formidable, over-bearing matron and great-aunt to the March sisters. The wealthy socialite in town. Can double as Mrs. Kirk.
Gender: female
Age: 45 to 60
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: E3
Mr. John Brooke
Laurie's tutor and a rather stiff man; shows very little emotion. He later marries Meg and changes.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: F#4
Vocal range bottom: C#3
Full Song List
Little Women: Overture
Little Women: An Operatic Tragedy
Little Women: Better
Little Women: Our Finest Dreams
Little Women: Here Alone
Little Women: Could You?
Little Women: Delighted
Little Women: Take a Chance on Me
Little Women: Off to Massachusetts
Little Women: Five Forever
Little Women: More Than I Am
Little Women: Astonishing
Little Women: The Weekly Volcano Press
Little Women: How I Am
Little Women: Some Things Are Meant to Be
Little Women: The Most Amazing Thing
Little Women: Days of Plenty
Little Women: The Fire Within Me
Little Women: Small Umbrella in the Rain
Little Women: The Weekly Volcano Press (Reprise)

Show History


Little Women, with book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, is based on Louisa May Alcott's class novel of the same name.  Believed to be semiautobiographical, it is considered one of the most widely read novels of all time.  Howland was initially signed on as only a producer for the musical but, when the original songwriters were let go in workshops, he decided to step into the position as composer.  The creators chose to fully stage excerpts of Jo's operatic tragedy, using them to start each act, to contrast the fantastical world of Jo's literary dreams with her much more grounded life in Concord.


Little Women opened at the Virginia Theatre on Broadway on January 23, 2005.  It closed on May 22 of the same year after 137 performances.  The original cast starred Sutton Foster, Maureen McGovern and Janet Carroll.  Shortly after closing, a thirty-city U.S. national tour started, with McGovern continuing her role and Kate Fisher taking over for Sutton Foster.  The tour began in August 2005 in San Diego, California, and concluded in July 2006 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The musical received a pair of international premieres after closing in the United States.  The Australian premiere of the musical ran at the Seymour Centre at the University of Sydney from November to December 2008, produced by Australian musical theatre star, Peter Cousens.  It included performances from Trisha Noble, Judi Connelli and Stephen Mahy.  A German production opened on June 12, 2010.


  • The Broadway production of Little Women had one Tony Award nomination for Sutton Foster as Jo for Best Actress in a Musical.  It also had one Outer Critics Circle nomination for Foster for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and three Drama Desk Award nominations (Sutton Foster for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Maureen McGovern for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical and Outstanding Orchestrations).

Critical Reaction

"A work of quality. Its book (by Allan Knee), music (by Jason Howland) and lyrics (by Mindi Dickstein) dare to put complex emotions and intimate relationships over inflated spectacle."
– The Chicago Sun-Times

"Allan Knee's script offers long passages of astutely condensed Alcott; Jason Howland's pleasant music, inventively orchestrated by Kim Scharnberg, pulls contemporary shapes out of period waltzes, polkas, and quadrille."
– The Village Voice

"Script and score work together nicely, to distinguish this umpteenth version of Little Women as a lovely ode to the creative process."
– LA Times

"Family joys and family sorrows are at the heart of [Little Women.] It's hard to imagine that this affecting tale could be better told."
– Sacramento Bee

"Packed with incredible talent, a fine script by Allan Knee and an effervescent score by composer Jason Howland and lyricist Mindi Dickstein, this one soars."
– Deseret Morning News

"Wholesome, family-friendly entertainment... pleasant and tuneful."
– The Wichita Eagle

"There's sweetness to Little Women that can't, and shouldn't, be denied."
– The Tennessean

"A surprisingly innovative and fresh version of this endearing tale.  ...Jason Howland's music and Mindi Dickstein's lyrics blend the story nicely.  ...Allan Knee's script maintains the integrity of the story with its nuance and subplots."
– The Flint Journal

"Little Women relies on rich characterization, witty dialogue and more than a little class to breathe new life into an oft-told story."
– The Appleton Post-Crescent



Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott


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Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
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