Interview with producer and cast of Little Women: The Musical

Proudly presented by Olivia Ruggiero Productions, Little Women: The Musical is playing at Fairfield School of Arts in early June. With an unwavering following since the book’s publication in 1868 and countless movie and stage adaptations, this youth production promises to bring something special, modern and fresh to Louisa May Alcott’s endearing coming-of-age story about the four March sisters, inspired by true events of her own upbringing.

As the show program states:

“Little Women is a show about family and legacy. A story of courage and heart whereby we find the simplest of lives and the moments that often pass us by are actually the most important. That family is all you ever need, and home is all you should ever want.” – Producer and Director, Olivia Ruggiero.

In this Zoom podcast Sydney Theatre Reviews was thrilled to interview Olivia Ruggiero and cast member Alana De Gois who plays the lead role of Jo March. Below is a link to the audio version and excerpt transcript from this interview.


Little Women is a much loved story worldwide and has been hugely inspirational in people’s childhoods. What inspired both of you to be part of the story?

Olivia Ruggiero (OR): I also really love the book of Little Women, and 10 years ago I had the privilege of playing Jo in my local theatre company’s production back in Bathurst. It was a very special production to me; it was the last one I did before I left home and I got to share it with my singing teacher, Jonathan, who directed the show.  So it’s a show I’ve always wanted to do again as I really enjoyed that experience. I just felt like it was the right time. I wanted to start my own production company and branch into community theatre a bit more. Having directed some new theatre productions in the past, I think it’s such a beautiful story and so accessible. And it has passed down through the ages. So when an opportunity came up to direct a show and put together that producing side of things it was a no-brainer for me. And I’ve worked with amazing talented youth before like Alana so I knew that Western Sydney has the talent so I’m really lucky that they came through with the goods on this occasion! [laughs]

Alana De Gois (ADG): To be honest, when I auditioned to be part of this musical, I had no idea of the storyline of Little Women at all, I didn’t even know there was a book or movies about it! So I was like, ‘okay sure, let’s just do this!’ It was good because I knew Liv would be our director, and she’s directed musicals for us before, that I’ve been so grateful for, because they’ve just been so fun to do. And I really wanted to do another one with her, and Liv, I’m really grateful for this opportunity of grasping the lead role of Jo, because, I’ve never had a lead role before, and it feels…great!

The casting for this production is progressively more age-appropriate compared to film productions we’ve seen in the past. Katherine Hepburn, for example, was 26 years old when she played Jo, who is actually a teenager in the story when we first meet her. How does this interpretation differ when you have a younger cast playing a diversity of roles?

OR: It’s definitely interesting! I remember in rehearsal when we were working on Our Finest Dreams which is one of the first songs in the show. And I said to the four girls who play the March sisters, who are 14, 15 and 16, “this thing has to feel like chaos, you’re running around, playing, having fun, you’re kids having fun” and they are that age, it’s not a distant memory to them. That idea of running around a friend’s backyard playing dress-ups is something that probably is only four or five years in their past. So, the energy they brought was actually mind-blowing and I still can’t get over it! It seems like [the songs] Our Finest Dreams, Five Forever, and Weekly Volcano Press (which is by far my favourite thing in the show, so far!), it just feels natural and real, because they are the ages of those characters and they can relate to it. And I think the really awesome thing about this particular cast, is they’ve brought their experience to it, their age, but also, they’ve brought this incredible modernity. Because they are this generation. So Little Women is a story that absolutely has transcended ages, and this new production we have fostered will speak to a younger audience too.

Alana, in playing Jo, what did discover about her personality that you found relatable or surprising?

ADG:  Honestly just the drive that she has in her to accomplish things and her determination. For example, at school, or whatever, I’m always trying to do my best, and get the best grades, and even in my dancing and in my singing I try to push myself to be better all the time. And also, the stubbornness; I can be stubborn, just like Jo!

Little Women was originally written as an all-American story in an American context, which to the surprise of the author and her publisher, became extremely popular worldwide. What is it about the story that you feel makes it so universal and how does this production relate to an Australian audience?

OR: To me, it’s not a story about nationality, and I completely understand the concept the March sisters embody of growing up in a patriotic America. I get it, but I don’t think that’s the heart of the story. And I’ve said from Day 1 with this cast, ‘I think this is a story about dreamers’. These are all people who have unique and individual dreams, and hopes, and that is why we love them. And that is not something that is bound by nationality or continent, that’s something that is so universal. And we find even though the four March sisters lead very different lives and have incredibly distinct personalities, we can relate to each of them in their own unique way. And that’s why I think it will translate to audiences; every time we’re in the rehearsal room my favourite character changes, because they have their own uniqueness and they bring that to the table and I think that’s why it works. It’s a story about dreamers – if you’ve ever had a dream, it’s the show for you!

ADG: I was going to say something about their personalities being different and people can relate to each of the different things each of the March sisters have about each other. But yeah, you [Liv] basically took the words that I was going to say! [laughs]

One of the major themes about this story is overcoming challenges. What’s one big challenge you’ve had in producing or being part of this show, and how have you overcome that challenge?

OR: I don’t know if there’s been one hurdle or a thousand little ones….there’s not “one” particular challenge that stands out to me. I’m a very organised human being and I think in producing a show, you have to be very organised, because there’s a lot that goes into it, from venue, to sets, to costumes, to props, to casting…all of that falls on you. It’s mammoth, the hours that you put in. And I suppose I’m a very busy human being, I’m producing two other solo shows at the moment as well as this one and I work full time. So, time is my challenge! [laughs] But it’s not been a “challenge”, it’s been a joy! I’ve called this from Day 1 my “passion project” so every minute I spend on it does not feel like work; every rehearsal I go to I look forward to, I ache for Tuesday nights and the odd Sunday that we have [for rehearsal].

ADG: There haven’t really been many challenges except for last Tuesday’s rehearsal. Liv would know what I’m talking about! [laughs]. There’s a kiss scene between Jo and Laurie. And I was very, very nervous for that. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t that bad. Once we got it over and done with, it was okay!

How does this musical version reach fans of Little Women in a way that a film or stage adaption does not?

OR: Like a lot of audiences, I knew the book of Little Women and the film [version] of Little Women, and I’m talking about the Winona Ryder film. So when I discovered there was a musical, I was fascinated, because obviously I loved the adaptions that I had seen, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It takes it to another level. And it’s really hard to explain and I’ve said to the cast from Day 1, “I can’t actually put into words what this musical means to me”. And it’s funny, I’ll go back to my director of 10 years ago, my singing teacher, Jonathan, he actually can’t watch the film adaptions any more, after having done the musical. He said “to me, Little Women is what we did when we did that musical”. He can’t see it or let it exist anymore without the music. It just adds another layer. And the music is incredible. I think you can excavate so much more of who the characters are when you add music and dance and things like that. And also, it was set in a time period when music was so influential. Like, Beth plays the piano, we know that about her, and Meg and Jo go to dances. So music was, not to be too punny, instrumental in their lives, in the 1860s. So it just feels right, it feels natural.

At the end of Act 1 Jo has a fantastic soliloquy as we would call it in theatre, but it is sung. It really shows the multi-faceted side of Jo, that’s she’s not just one thing, she’s so many things.

ADG: As Liv said, Jo is trying to tell the world that’s she’s not just one thing, she wants to be everything. She says “I may be small, but I’ve got giant plans to shine as brightly as the sun.” She wants to live her big dreams and pursue her passion that she wants for her life. And she says that she can feel it, but it’s far from her and she has to find it on her own, so she has to take that journey in her life to pursue her dreams and gain her passion.

OR: I don’t think we would get that if it was just a script. The music driving underneath all of those things and allowing it to be sung…we have that saying in musical theatre: “You sing when you can’t speak anymore.” And I feel like this show embodies that. Like they’ve done talking, they’ve done the dialogue, and when the emotions get so heightened they just have to sing it.

In terms of the core message of Little Women, what does it mean to you and what do you hope audiences will come away with?

OR: It’s the quote from the show: “Sometimes when you dream your dreams come true in extraordinary ways. Suddenly a day can be so amazing.” That sums  it up.

ADG: It’s just inspiring for everyone, especially Jo, I feel like she’s the more inspiring character out of anybody else because she’s so determined to get what she wants in life. She perseveres through everything, and even with the challenges she faced – losing her sisters over time and Laurie falling in love with her when she says that wasn’t meant to be – she still kept going, she was still so determined to sell her stories and let them be known to the world, and she wanted to take her place in society, and I feel like that’s what everybody should strive to do.

OR: Jo realises at the end all her big aspirations and dreams were at home. Home is where he heart was the whole time. So, as much as it is a coming of age story, it’s definitely about dreams and family and love.

Little Women: The Musical will be playing at Fairfield School of Arts from 1 June – 4 June 2023. For tickets and showtimes go to

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