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'Little Women' At Bristol Riverside Theatre & Annabella’s Restaurant Make For Great Dinner & A Show

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Just a quick left off the Burlington Bristol Bridge takes you to the Delaware River and Radcliffe St. and the Bristol Riverside Theatre, soon to dinner and a show bristol pacelebrating their 25th Anniversary season. This quaint street is home to several shops and eateries. But the focal point is the theatre located on river. We were invited to enjoy their production of “Little Women”.

Louisa May Alcott's autobiographical story of growing up during and after the Civil War in a house dominated by women has been twice filmed and made its Broadway debut as a musical in 20005. Its themes of sisterhood and female survival provide a strong connection for women of all ages.

With feisty aspiring writer Jo March -- who maintains fierce loyalty and love for her family while refusing the constricting role laid out for women at that time.

However the musical seems more of a sketchy adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel of New England girlhood. Watching this shorthand account of four sisters growing up poor but honest during the Civil War is like speed reading Alcott's evergreen novel of 1868.

The strength of the Bristol’s production lies in its solid casting, clever sets and staging and creative direction courtesy of Susan D. Atkinson. With revolving sets of the March humble home and a solid orchestra, Atkinson has brought a sense of warmth and character to this piece.

Jason Howland's score is brisk, sprightly and forgettable, though appealingly performed by the entire cast. The March sisters: Beth (Kim Carson), Meg (Elisa Matthews), Amy (Kara Dombrowski) and Jo (Jennie Eisenhower, yes that Eisenhower) are all outstanding! Eisenhower plays the tom boy Jo with the energy and emotions that earned this Philly favorite a few Barrymores.  Her solo song “Astonishing” well describes her performance.

The novel's most fondly recalled set pieces are in place: Jo and Meg's first dance; Jo and Amy's falling out; the unfortunate conclusion of Jo and Laurie's ( Stephen Schellhardt) one-sided romance are all there but seem rushed in the musical version.

The show taps into honest feelings a few times, both in the second act: Jo and Beth commune while flying a kite at Cape Cod, and sing a lovely song about life and fate, "Some Things Are Meant to Be," and the girls' mother Marmee, wonderfully played by Leslie Becker confronts Jo about dealing with loss in the encouraging, world-wise "Days of Plenty." The slow- to- blossom romance between Jo and Prof. Bhaer (Michael Sharon) lingers delightfully to deliver the Ahhhh…true love feeling.

The familiar saying “the book was better” and “not all films make great musicals” rings true as Little Women played on Broadway a brief four months. Still, the Bristol will hold this as a winner in their lineup of quality productions.

Little Women plays at the Bristol Riverside Theater, 120 Radcliffe St. Bristol Pa. until May 22. For Tickets and information call 215.785.0100 or www.brtstage.org

Directly across the street is Annabella’s Italian Cuisine Restaurant.  Fresh homemade custom- to- order entrees are the norm in this intimate 11 table dinning room.  We enjoyed chicken ditilini soup, Rosa Lisa salad (fresh greens, cranberries, walnuts, tomatoes with gorgonzola cheese). Our main entrees were a braised pork loin with asparagus and a seafood caniloni with vodka crème sauce, finishing off the meal with Tiramisu and coffee.

Reservations are recommended in this BYOB establishment. Call 215.788.2929 or visit www.annabellarestaurant.com

Contact Pati Buehler at pbuehler@philly2philly.com

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