"Little Women" is not a flight of Alcott's imagination. It is a fictionalized account of the days she spent with her three flesh and blood sisters and her parents in the rural township of Concord and Boston, Mass. The familial celebrations and sorrow depicted on the pages of the novel were born of real life events in the lives of Alcott's real sisters Lizzie, Anna, and May. For Queens actors Amy McAlexander and Anne Kanengeiser, both of whom are involved in the newly launched "Little Women," the musical, the story of the March sisters is no less poignant and personal. McAlexander, a 27-year-old Houston native who lives in Astoria, plays Amy, the youngest and perhaps most emotionally complex of all the March girls. "This character is me,"said McAlexander, who describes herself and the character Amy March as "little sprites, little wood creatures." "My God. I love her. I know exactly where she is coming from."Kanengeiser, who lives in Long Island City and traces at least two generations of theatrical roots back to Columbus, Ohio, is standing by for the plum role of Marmee, the family matriarch, being played by Maureen McGovern. The youngest of three sisters in a family troubled by alcoholism and illness, Kanengeiser, has an intimate understanding of loss and longing, and of Marmee's stiff upper lip in times of distress."I pursued this role from the moment I first read the script," said Kanengeiser, on a recent Saturday, when she stood in for McGovern for both the matinee and evening performances. "I was able to go to Marmee's emotional places because I know those places."A family odysseyIt seems impossible to tell the tale of any one character in "Little Women" without relating it to her sisters and family history. So, too, the story of Anne Kanengeiser. A self-described "old-school actor," Kanengeiser jokes that she came out of her mother's womb dancing. Suzanne, or "Susie," Kanengeiser was a dancer who longed to make it to Broadway. Anne's father Robert was an engineer who built stage sets and her grandmother, Elsie Kittle, was a director and performer in Columbus' literary and theatrical communities. Kittle taught Shakespeare at Ohio State University and in her youth, toured with the renowned Circuit Chautauqua.Although her upbringing was sometimes dysfunctional, the Kanengeiser house was always filled with music: Tchaikovsky and Roger Miller, Rachmaninoff and Rogers and Hammerstein. Dance was Anne's first calling. But by the age of 11, her desire to find a personal art form unique from her talented mother, gave voice to a new interest."One night, I just jumped up on the dishwasher in my family's kitchen and started singing," she recalled with a chuckle. "I exclaimed that I wanted to be a singer."She honed her singing and acting skills during high school and, after attending Ohio's Otterbein College, moved to Chicago to pursue her career. Kanengeiser's first big break came in the winter of 1995 when she was cast as a young Eleanor Roosevelt in "Eleanor: An American Love Story." Playing Eleanor allowed Kanengeiser to draw upon her own nature: Nurturing and patrician in the face of personal sadness. Exactly a decade later, she would summon the same emotional reservoir to play "Little Women's" Marmee, a character eerily similar to Eleanor.She played Fosca in the first regional production of "Passion," at the Signature Theatre, Va., in the spring of 1996. The part earned her the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress. She won the award again in 2000 for a revival of her role as Eleanor.Ka
©2005 Community News Group
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