Little extravagance, but an absolute abundance of warmth.
If I were to offer a one word review, it would very simply be beautiful. There are no other words that truly do this production, in all its simple joviality and emotional complexity, justice.
Little Women The Musical is a stage adaptation of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, and follows the story of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth, as they grow and evolve their own relationships, as well as the relationships around them. Each sister carries a unique story, with this production offering glimpses into three of the sisters’ tales and giving prominence to Jo’s rebellious story of unconventional womanhood and her lofty ambition of becoming a writer.
Lydia White, as Jo, commands the majority of the score with her heart-wrenchingly convincing vocals. With more time on stage than off, White’s energy never falters and Jo’s brainy, hot-headed and unpredictable temperament bounces around the walls of the theatre with vigour. As a product of its time, we see Jo battle society’s expectation of young women and, even for a 21st century audience, her character remains just as inspirational now as I imagine it did then.
The music is similarly beautiful and, accompanied by a string quartet, each number is distinct in style and tone. It is apparent to me that each song is given its own character, derived in part or loosely inspired by existing musical styles. Perhaps this is just the power of association, but the score shows glimpses of Into the Woods, fused with the jovial traditionalism of Mary Poppins. In that sense, traditional musical theatre meets new, in what is certainly a challenging score for the cast to carry through. Choreography is kept minimal, but purposeful, and used to enhance the sheer joy of the March household.
As the focus of the book is the four little women, it would only be right to commend the four March sisters on their incredible joint performance: Meg (Hana Ichijo), Jo (Lydia White), Amy (Mary Moore) and Beth (Anastasia Martin). Ichijo carries herself with class, perfectly embodying the older and mature Meg, whilst Moore contrasts her composure with Amy’s amusing petulance, introducing timely splashes of comic relief. Martin, as the young Beth, is simultaneously unnoticeable yet integral to the March family throughout her well-considered performance. Their stage rapport projects a sense of true friendship, one that I have to presume exists both on and off the stage.
There is such an abundance of talent in this cast that is almost seems a shame to focus in on the one sister. In my opinion, each should be allowed to shine just as brightly as how Louisa May Alcott originally wrote the sisters into her book. To that end, the script is the only weak link to the performance. I say this with a heavy caveat as I think it near impossible to perfectly condense down such an iconic novel, without compromising the narrative. The biggest loss for me is the richness of Laurie and Jo’s friendship; as her closest friend, I would have loved to see more time dedicated to their character development. Furthermore, there are two or three occasions where it seems as though the acts have come to an end before they then continue on for a another 15 minutes. With a bit of cut-throat editing, this production could rival some of the most established musicals out there.
It is a wonder how it took so long to make its way over here from the Broadway stage, but I sure am glad Little Women The Musical has finally landed in London. If you are after a life-affirming evening, as a celebration of all that is good about friends and family, I cannot recommend this show highly enough.
- Based on the book by Louisa May Alcott
- Directed by Bronagh Lagan
- Music by Jason Howland; Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein; Book by Allan Knee
- Cast includes: Ryan Bennett, Hana Ichijo, Sev Keoshgerian, Anastasia Martin, Mary Moore, Bernadine Pritchett, Brian Protheroe, Lejaun Sheppard, Savannah Stevenson, Lydia White and Liv Andrusier
- Park Theatre
- Until 19th December 2021
- Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes, including an interval