'Little Women' one of many Playhouse Merced productions

November 27, 2008 

Marmee (Crystal Backoff), seated right, reads a letter to her daughters, from left, Beth (Natalie Cleek), Meg (Elizabeth Harmelin), Joe (Tess Parks) and Amy (Elyssa Alexander) in this scene from "Little Women."

SUBMITTED PHOTO

With luscious music and beloved characters, "Little Women: The Musical" is opening at Playhouse Merced this weekend.

"This musical is an amazing adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic," Director Rob Hypes said. "Featuring some of the most astonishing music that the Playhouse has ever produced, 'Little Women' is perfect for families, couples, and the avid theatregoer. It is a perfect place for a family gathering. If you have a large family in town for Thanksgiving weekend, there are several family packages available to make coming to the Playhouse more affordable to see such an awe-inspiring show."

"Little Women: The Musical" is only one of several events and productions going on at Playhouse Merced during the holiday season.

The Caroling Quartet, comprised of Merced favorites Jim and Diane Kocher, Tess Parks and Goran Norquist, is available for hire for holiday festivities.

"These four would be perfect for whatever party that you are planning for the holiday season," Rob Hypes said. "We are offering caroling packages from $100-$300 and can custom each package to your specific needs."

Noelle Chandler will be directing "It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play" at the Black Box Theater.

"It's a really interesting experience," she said, "watching a radio play. Especially of one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time."

Playhouse Merced will also be launching its One Lousy Dollar Campaign.

"Playhouse Merced has been a staple of the community for 15 years, providing arts education and Broadway-style live theater on a level that Merced has never seen," Rob Hypes said. "Over 10 thousand people in Merced and beyond have had their lives touched by the artists and staff of the Playhouse. If every person who's ever seen a show, taken a class, experienced a tour or participated in one of our after-school workshops donated a single dollar during this holiday season, they'd be ensuring that Playhouse Merced could continue to stage musicals and dramas that amaze and delight audiences, touching peoples hearts and lives for years to come."

Those interested in donating can visit www.playhousemerced.com.

Crystal Backoff, 24, plays the role of Marmee, devoted mother of the four March sisters, Meg, Joe, Beth and Amy in "Little Women: The Musical."

"Not only is this musical a family-oriented production," Backoff said, "but I strongly believe the morals and values behind each and every character will create a timeless tale that will bring families together to appreciate what most of us tend to take for granted."

She has loved the role of Marmee.

"Through this process, Marmee has been an absolute inspiration to me," Backoff said. "As a woman, she has taught me what it means to be strong, even when self-doubt is evident, and to look past what most people see at face value to realize that there is so much more to the beauty of life than most people are willing to accept. The beauty in Marmee lies in her ability to be the glue that holds the family together while raising four kind-hearted and goal oriented young women on her own as her husband is serving as an Army chaplain in the Civil War."

Elyssa Alexander, 14, plays Amy, and has loved the process of telling this much-loved story through music. "This story is a classic book," she said. "You can imagine it in your head as much as you want, but it is so much fun to come see it played out on a stage with real people and music."

'Little Women'

WHEN: Today through Dec. 14 with performances at 7:30 Friday -- Saturday evenings and at 2 on Saturday and Sunday afternoons

WHERE: Playhouse Merced, 452 W. Main St., in downtown Merced.

TICKETS: $20 for adults, $17 for seniors, $10 for students, and $8 for children. Special family and dinner packages are also available. Reservations may also be made over the phone with a credit card by calling (209) 725-8587.

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