Alexa Wilcox finds connections with ‘Little Women’ role
November 15, 2016
One of the things that drew Park City High School Drama Teacher Rick Kimball to the "Little Women" was the musical's recurring theme.
"It is the fact that the strong female protagonist who is trying to find her way in the world has to, for some reason or another, fight against social norms or gender norms to find out who she is," Kimball told The Park Record. "I think this play has a good message of finding your place beyond social expectations and finding the true sense of who you're supposed to be and finding your own definition of happiness."
Still, Kimball said, even though society has come a long way, there are stereotypes and social norms that women are still fighting against.
"That's why I wanted to do this," he said. "This play is very touching and the characters eventually arrive at a place where they find their own strengths without compromising."
Park City High School will present "Little Women" Thursday through Saturday at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Evening curtain is 7 p.m. and there will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
The musical, based on the 1868 semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott, was written by Allan Knee with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland.
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The story follows four sisters — Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth, and their mother Marmee, during the Civil War.
The cast will be accompanied by live music performed by the Park City High School music department, directed by Chris Taylor.
Jo, the protagonist, is performed by Alexa Wilcox, a junior at Park City High School.
"She is the outspoken sister, you might say," Wilcox said during an interview."I relate to this character well. Ever since I was little, I was told that even though I was short and small, I had that big voice and big personality."
Still, Wilcox felt the challenge of making the role her own.
"Sutton Foster played the character on Broadway and she got to take whatever liberty she wanted, especially with the music," Wilcox said. "There were a lot of rhythmic things that she did completely different than what was written.
"So, the challenge for me was to put up a mental block there," Wilcox said. "I couldn't listen to her do the role because if I were to do what she did, I wouldn't turn out how I intended it, necessarily."
Also, Wilcox felt if she were to portray Jo as Foster did, people would think she was copying the actress.
"I had to find personal connections in the character," Wilcox said.
One of the big ones is that Jo hates change.
"That's very me," Wilcox said. "I love traditions and like things that have been, and Jo's whole story is that things are changing and she doesn't really know what to do."
Wilcox was surprised she landed the role.
"Initially we were doing to do 'Jekyll and Hyde' and I auditioned for it and was excited because I love that show," she said. "So, when the show was changed, I auditioned for the role of Jo because my voice teacher [Debra Cook, co-founder of the Utah Conservatory], has compared me to Jo."
Still, the audition was unnerving for Wilcox.
"The song 'Astonishing' is very technically challenging and I had to sing that for my audition," she said. "I went to my vocal teacher and asked how I was going to do it."
Cook, whom Wilcox sees as a second mother, gave her some tips and boosted her confidence.
"She told me I could do it and that I had hit notes that were higher than the ones in the song," Wilcox said. "It was still a hard thing to do, and took a while for me get there, but I did it."
The audition was just the start of a journey filled with challenges.
"One of the biggest for me is stamina because I'm constantly singing," Wilcox said. "In other shows, there are times when some of the songs are more delicate, but Jo doesn't have those kinds of songs, because that's not her character."
Kimball said this was the reason why he chose to do to "Little Women."
"This is a hard show because the acting and singing is very tricky," he said. "I think that's cool because it's challenging for the students. You always want to shoot a little higher." The students came through for Kimball.
"We've had two months to rehearse, and we're there," he said. "I'm happy with the cast."
Another reason Kimball selected the play was because of the quality of actors in his classes, he said.
"The story has a returning theme, which is that the strong female protagonist who is trying to find her way in the world has to, for some reason or another, fight against social norms or gender norms to find out who she is," Kimball said. "I think this play has a good message of finding your place beyond social expectations and finding the true sense of who you're supposed to be and finding your own definition of happiness. And Jo represents a lot of women out there who are doing that."
Jo's sisters, in turn, create a small microcosm of what can be found in the world today, Kimball said.
Meg, played by Makenzie Adams, is the caregiver. Beth, portrayed by Calie Gallup, is the peacemaker and Amy, performed by Tori Kenton, is the one who wants things her way.
"Jo is the independent one and Marmee, the mom, played by Eileen Riley, is a collection of all of the women," Kimball said. "The cool thing is that these actors all look like a family.
"I love the show, because the text and subtext is complicated and these are very colorful characters," he said. "I knew that Park City High had some very strong female actors and if we were going to do this play, this is the time to do it."
"Little Women" opens Thursday and runs through Saturday at Park City High School, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Evening curtain is 7 p.m. and there will be a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets, which can be purchased at the door, are $7 for adults and $5 for students.