Little Women at Park Theatre
Louisa May Alcott’s timeless 1886 classic has won many hearts, and often been adapted for screen and stage. This time it’s a musical, directed by Bronagh Lagan, that had its debut on Broadway in 2005.
The core of the novel’s narrative remains the same: Jo (an impeccable performance by Lydia White) is the strong-willed and outspoken March sister, aiming to become a world-renowned writer. (White closely resembles Winona Ryder, who made another great Jo.) With their father fighting in the American Civil War, the March sisters, and their mother – whom they call Marmee (Savannah Stevenson) – make do with the little they have and each other. In this intimate production the 19th century Massachusetts setting feels just right. Jo spends her time writing operatic tragedies, which are cleverly recreated by the other characters when she is detailing the tales to her German tutor and friend, Professor Bhaer (Ryan Bennett).
The famous March sisters are brilliantly cast, as is the rest of the ensemble, including their formidable neighbour Mr Laurence (Brian Protheroe) and his nervous but friendly grandson, Laurie (Sev Keoshgerian.) Meg is alluring (played by Hana Ichijo) and Anastasia Martin’s Beth is the subdued sister whose untimely end we all know so well. Mary Moore’s Amy is another star performance, and the character’s juvenile nature brings many laughs along the way. However, some of the vocal performances are lost amid the overpowering score, and with 24 songs one begins to wonder when the writers of musicals will realise that not every thought and utterance requires a song; here, the adage “less is more” is apt.
The sisters’ sweetness, along with their mother’s, is clearly in evidence, and it is the undeniable affection they have for one another – along with Jo’s ambitious and independent nature – that makes Alcott’s novel an enduring classic. When faced with the more conservative outlook of her Aunt March (Bernadine Pritchett) Jo exclaims she doesn’t “give two figs about society” Her boldness costs her a trip to Europe, to which the youngest, Amy attends.
Aside from the few problematic elements, the musical stands well, and with shining performances, one is eager to follow what the actors do next.
Photos: Pamela Raith
Little Women is at Park Theatre from 11th November until 19th December 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: