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'Little Women' Goes on the Road, but It Needs to Mind Its Speed


The Kennedy Center's "Imagination Celebration on Tour" production of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" races by so fast in its spare bus and truck version, you could almost feel the tail wind.

In Paulette Laufer's choppily abridged adaptation, directed by Albert Takazauckas, high points zip by: a few seconds of Jo (Jacqueline Underwood) directing her sisters in her play, scanty scenes with Marmee (Marybeth Wise), meeting Laurie (Jeff Thomas Gardner) and his Grandfather (Hector Correa), Amy's destruction of Jo's precious manuscript, Beth's illness.

And there's Jo's first published story, a few minutes' stay in New York and a scene with Professor Bhaer (Correa again), Meg's understanding with John Brooke (Gardner) and Jo's with the professor, Beth's sad demise, Amy's and Laurie's engagement and so on, all in an hour.

It's no wonder there was a bit of a muffled giggle when Meg (Rachel Gardner) made an entrance with her swaddled twins--with so little sense of years passing, gentle Meg seemed to have been living life in the fast lane.

Despite a more appealing Amy than usual--Carolyn Pasquantonio plays the part with more spirit than poutiness--and Hope Lambert's welcome calm as Beth, performances lack dimension. This is especially apparent when Correa, Gardner and Wise play multiple roles. Except when Correa wears a dress as Aunt March, there's little to distinguish the characters.

Overall, there's little opportunity to develop an understanding of time and place. That emotional distance was underscored by James Kronzer's physically distancing, multilevel set, which was too small for Pepperdine's Smothers Theatre, where the show opened.

* "Little Women," Irvine Barclay Theatre, UC Irvine, Friday, 7:30 p.m. $9 and $11. Haugh Performing Arts Center, Citrus College, 1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora, Saturday, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. $5. (626) 963-9411.

Go for Baroque: Dressed in 18th century garb, the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra kicks off its 13th season on Saturday with "The Queen's Birthday," a one-hour musical journey to a Baroque castle for the queen's 21st birthday, designed for children from toddlers to sixth-graders and their families, at Santa Monica Public Library.

The company founder and music director, violinist Gregory Maldonado, will lead the orchestra in works by Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Handel and others. Oh, and don't be too surprised if Johann Sebastian Bach himself shows up too.

* "The Queen's Birthday," Santa Monica Public Library Main Branch, 1343 6th St., Saturday, 2 p.m. (310) 458-0425; (310) 458-8600.

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