Riverfront’s ‘Little Women’ is all about family
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media November 7, 2013 10:36AM
♦ Nov. 8-30
♦ The Riverfront Playhouse, 11-13 South Water Street Mall, Aurora
♦ Tickets, $15-$17
♦ (630) 897-9496
Updated: November 7, 2013 10:36AM
In 1985, Sherry Winchester Schultz portrayed Jo March in the Riverfront Playhouse’s production of “Little Women.”
“In that 1985 production, my real-life sister, Susan Winchester, played my stage sister, Beth March,” said Winchester Schultz, who is directing the current production of “Little Women” for the Riverfront Playhouse.
“Jo is still one of my favorite roles and the climactic scene between Jo and Beth, and the chance to feel more of the ‘magic’ between my sister, me and the audience every night of that 1985 production is what has kept me coming back to the stage for all these years.”
“Little Women” will be presented from Nov. 8 through Nov. 30 at The Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora.
“Little Women,” adapted by Riverfront Playhouse co-founder David Morris, is based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name. Set in the 1860s, the story centers on the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, four sisters whose father, Mr. March, leaves to preach to the soldiers during the Civil War.
Mrs. March and their housekeeper, Hannah, keep the home fires burning while teaching the girls strong morals, family values and the importance of giving to the less fortunate. The play follows the girls as they grow up, fall in love and prepare to marry.
In addition to memories of sharing the stage with her real-life sister, Winchester Schultz is pleased that her daughter, Heidi Schultz, will have a key role in the current production.
“I am thrilled to have my daughter playing Jo March, the part that I played when we performed this show at the Riverfront for the first time back in 1985,” Winchester Schultz said.
In the 1985 show, Sherry’s late husband, Jack Schultz, who died in September 2012, played the father of the March family.
“I was scheduled to direct this show last fall, to commemorate my 30th anniversary of being involved at the Riverfront,” Winchester Schultz said. “Due to Jack’s passing, we put it on the back burner and brought it out for fall 2013.”
In addition to the personal feelings that Winchester Schultz is experiencing, the play is filled with a range of sentiments.
“I truly enjoy directing and performing in melodramas like ‘Little Women’ because they cover so many emotions: fun and laughter, suspense, tears and heartwarming reflection,” Winchester Schultz said. “I love the challenge of taking an audience out of the current time, away from TVs, cell phones and computers, and placing them smack-dab into the 1860s.”
Also demanding is the play itself.
“One of the challenges of this show is that it is very emotional,” Winchester Schultz said. “Even during the auditions we were brought to tears by the strength of the words and emotions conveyed. This play is very heartwarming and really showcases the love, affection and frustrations that a real family with four daughters, friends and extended family can experience.
“It is the perfect play to bring your loved ones to,” she continued, “especially just prior to Thanksgiving and the holidays.”