Theatre Review - Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved tale of female empowerment, written more than 150 years ago, continues to be adapted for stage and screen, finding her new fans. This musical version (book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein) was first produced on Broadway in 2005.

Set during the American Civil War, the four March sisters live in genteel poverty while their father is away – a chaplain in the Union Army.

Jo (a resplendent Lydia White) delights in telling stories and dreams of travelling the world and becoming a famous writer. As they approach Christmas, fatherless and penniless, she tries to keep her family’s spirits up with theatrical productions and her “blood and guts” stories.

Although this musical adaptation is fairly run of the mill, it is beautifully staged by Bronagh Lagan. I’ve always been put off by the story’s tweeness, but this energetic production focuses on Jo’s aspirations, her feminist sensibilities, and highlights the sisterly tensions as well as their love for one another.

As Jo’s desire to be self-sufficient and her growing maturity as a writer are foregrounded, it’s also clear why Laurie (Sev Keoshgerian), the orphaned neighbour who the sisters befriend, is better suited to fellow pleasure-seeker Amy (Mary Moore) than Jo.

Hana Ichijo and Anastasia Martin give nuanced performances as the softer siblings, Meg and Beth, and Savannah Stevenson is pitch-perfect as Marmee.

Musical highlights include Off to Massachusetts, a duet between Beth and Mr Laurence (Brian Protheroe), and Her Alone a solo from Marmee (Stevenson), while Jo’s duet with Beth, Some Things Are Meant to Be, is particularly poignant.

Admittedly, many of the songs milk the mawkishness of the original tale, but it feels like the right time for this sort of good, clean understated entertainment and Little Women: The Musical may just be the perfect antidote to the long, cold winter nights ahead.

Until December 19

Originally published by Islington Tribune