Shelby MacPhail as Jo and Bretton Labash as Professor Bhaer rehearse for Medicine Hat Musical Theatre’s January production of Little Women.–NEWS PHOTO SAMANTHA JOHNSON
Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The next production by Medicine Hat Musical Theatre is a musical adaptation of Little Women with tickets on sale today.
The story is about a mother whose husband is away from home serving as a chaplain in the American Civil War, leaving her alone with four daughters. The girls are entering into independence and the story follows some of their successes and challenges.
“It’s a heartwarming story and the characters are so unique, I think everyone will find somebody in the cast who appeals to them,” stated producer Carolyn Freeman.
The story is set in the 1860s and speaks to the position of women during the Victorian era, with the main character Jo pushing against the limitations of stereotypical female roles by wanting to be independent and a writer.
Shelby MacPhail, who plays Jo, said, “I think Jo is a very inspiring character. When Louisa May Alcott first wrote the book Little Women it was, for it’s time, groundbreaking for women in terms of the characters she was writing. I think Jo is an original feminist, when you think of characters throughout literary history, she’s an iconic one. I also love the music, she has some wonderful songs she gets to sing, so that was definitely a draw for that character.”
MacPhail is a longtime member of the MHMT, performing in her first show when she was eight years old. She recently returned to the theatre scene in Medicine Hat after completing schooling in the U.S. for the past six years, first in Pennsylvania then Boston, to obtain a degree in neuroscience. She is planning to return to school online for a master’s in counselling psychology.
“Jo’s passion for storytelling and the love she has for her family — the story is a lot about family and the strength of the family unit and I think something for me that has been fun is Jo is unlike myself,” MacPhail said. “It’s been challenging in that way, she’s very fiery and outspoken and that’s not really me.”
Simon Frelick, an environmental technician with the Department of National Defence, is playing two parts in the production, the boy next door, Theodore (Laurie) Laurence, and Rodrigo, the hero in the story Jo writes to. Frelick did an amazing job of portraying Malcolm — a young, insecure man who desperately wants friends — in the Full Monty and is energetic about Little Women.
“It’s a much more fitting role for me, Laurie has the boyish charm whereas Malcolm was an introvert. This one is easier, you just have to be charming and friendly and in love with every girl,” said Frelick, who’s been performing since he was four years old and remembers singing the little bumblebee song at his church.
“He wants to fit in, he really wants the whole crew to accept him, I think because he doesn’t have parents, he’s an orphan and was raised by his grandfather,” explained Frelick. “He’s really pushing to be in the group, I don’t think that’s really me, so it’s different in that way. Charming, make everyone happy all at once, that’s more me, so that’s easy to lean into.”
Freeman said having a January show after Christmas and New Year’s is wonderful and, with tickets now on sale, it provides the opportunity for the community to give them as gifts.
The first show is on Jan. 12 and there will be four evening shows followed by a matinee.
“We really thought this show lent itself to a matinee as it is intergenerational, children can come with parents or grandparents,” said Freeman.
By: Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Dec 01, 2023 at 21:55