Columbia play inspired by Taylor Swift and ‘Little Women’ film sells out three-night run

By Shane Verkest, Photojournalist

The trio of sisters perform a Taylor Swift song together on stage. (Shane Verkest)

The music of Taylor Swift and the 2019 film “Little Women” made an unlikely yet successful theatre pairing this month in the form of a Columbia student production. The play, aptly named “Little Women (Taylor’s Version),” was sold-out during its three-night run.

This marked the inaugural production from Columbia student organization “Literary Concerts,” which uniquely utilized performances of exclusively Taylor Swift songs to follow the narrative structure of the movie. The film, which played in the background, gave context to the performances on stage.

According to director Magnolia Emerson, a junior music business major, the play itself was inspired by social media.

“I saw a TikTok back in 2020 when ‘evermore’ came out … I was like,’They should redo the “Little Women” musical with all Taylor Swift music,’” Emerson said. “We put all the music together on a playlist on Spotify, and we were like, ‘We can just do this.’”

The production itself, which ran from March 3 through March 5, was completely student-run, which Emerson said helped build a feeling of collaboration among the cast and crew.

The cast gathers in front of the “Little Women” film being projected on screen as they perform live music. (Shane Verkest)

“We had a huge turnout for auditions, which we didn’t expect at all,” Emerson said. “In a situation when it’s completely student-run, I think being collaborative will help because everyone wants to help in a way, and they’re learning from everything.”

The play featured a wide variety of Swift’s music, spanning her entire career.

“I connect everything to Taylor Swift,” Emerson said. “I feel like you can find anything in your life or in books or movies that will somehow connect back to Taylor Swift if you want it to.”

The production immediately found an audience. Cast member Katie Rutter, a sophomore acting major, said all three shows sold out two weeks before opening night.

“It was kind of funny because a lot of my classmates and teachers would ask about tickets, and I’d be like, ‘It’s already sold-out,’” Rutter said.

The cast comes together on stage to perform a marriage scene from the film. (Shane Verkest)

Ruby Lundeen, a first-year theatre major and stage manager of the play, said she believes the success was the result of the show’s concept.

“We had so many people tell us how cool of an idea it was,” Lundeen said. “They were also telling their friends. It was such a quick word of mouth to spread.”

Rutter said she was drawn in by the concept as well.

“I hadn’t heard of someone doing something like this before,” Rutter said.

One cast member, first-year musical theatre major Sebastian Gonzalez, also said the strength of the play’s source material translated into the success of the student production.

“There are just so many edits of ‘Little Women’ using Taylor Swift songs on YouTube,” Gonzalez said. “I think the success comes from how gripping Taylor’s music is, [and] how gripping the story of ‘Little Women’ is.”

Lundeen advises anyone with an idea for a play to go for it.

“Just do it; people will follow,” Lundeen said. “There will be a lot of people who are interested in your ideas. Just put it out there.”