Monroe High's 'Little Women' receives award nominations

Cast, orchestra to attend 5th Avenue Theatre Awards

Kelly Sullivan

Monroe High School cast members and the orchestra in this year’s production of “Little Women: The Musical” are being recognized for their theatrics.

Aly Gutierrez, who played Jo March, is nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and Maleah Haverly, who played the family's matriarch, Marmee March, is nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in this year's 5th Avenue Theatre Awards. The ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, June 12, at Seattle's Benaroya Hall.

This is 5th Avenue’s 15th year recognizing the work directors and students pour into their musical performances, according to the program. During the current school year, roughly 100 schools put on 122 productions in Washington that applied for the awards.

The MHS Performing Arts Department's musical ran for five shows at the school's Performing Arts Center in May. Director Stephen Loewen said it is difficult to narrow down the many reasons why this year was a success.

“That is such a hard question to answer,” he said. “(It was the) professionalism of the students and just their willingness to put in their hard work, and the direction the program is going.”

The musical is based on the 1869 semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott. The story follows Jo March, her relationship with her mother and sisters, and their various experiences with one each other, various suitors and friends. Themes woven throughout are the importance of family, growing up and navigating the sometimes rigid expectations of society.

Loewen previously referred to the musical as “a massive undertaking from all sides.” Gutierrez doesn't spend more than three minutes offstage throughout the production and, since February, students spent 12 hours each week in rehearsal, preparing for opening night in early May.

It was Loewen's second year as the program's theater director at MHS. He partners with the director of the school's chorale program, Ryan Hyde, who is also the music director. Hyde and Loewen have been working together to flesh out the full potential of the performing arts program by building trust with and between the students.

Loewen said those connections were largely what allowed the cast and crew to become vulnerable with one another and show even more of themselves on stage. The four sisters, including Gutierrez, junior Amanda Lester (as Meg March), senior Jordan Roche (as Beth March) and senior Jennie Peterson (as Amy March), would get together to journal and discuss ways to develop their characters. The group even had sleepovers to get to know one another and prepare for their roles, he said.

“It exceeded my expectations through and through,” he said. “Without a doubt, the maturity that the actors were able bring to the stage and the vulnerability, that they were willing to put themselves out there is well beyond their years.”

The majority of the performers this year were choir members or taking private voice lessons, which was an essential skill for the show, Loewen said. Many of the main actors and actresses were also in the lower grade levels, so the school will have a very solid team coming in again next year, he said.

At the ceremony in Seattle the production's orchestra, which was comprised of seven students from the MHS band and directed by Lisa Ray, will also take home an honorable mention for Outstanding Orchestra, and the four March sisters will take home an honorable mention for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Group.

“Wish us luck,” Loewen said. 

Photo by Kelly Sullivan: The cast and orchestra for Monroe High School's production of 'Little Women' will be attending the 5th Avenue Theatre Awards, where several people have been nominated for honors.


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