Park Theatre (venue)
21 November 2021 (released)
21 November 2021
In a climate of bold, contemporary interpretations of classics for the stage, it takes a moment to adjust to this very traditional adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1886 novel ‘Little Women.’ First produced on Broadway in 2016, it’s also a very traditional musical, in form and style. Whilst it might lack originality, it certainly doesn’t lack ambition, with a sweeping score and superb performances, notably Lydia White as the irrepressible March sister, Jo.
Allen Knee’s book stays close to the original, telling the story of the four March sisters growing up in genteel poverty in nineteenth century Concord, Massachusetts. Amy, the youngest is played with cheeky glee by Mary Moore, Hannah Ichijo gives an elegant performance as Meg who marries local tutor and Anastasia Martin avoids sentimentality with a touching portrayal of tragic Beth. Her final duet with Jo, ‘Something’s are meant to be’ is beautiful and poignant with clever staging from director Bronagh Lagan.
Jo, a character loosely based on Alcott herself, is the driving force of the drama and White is mesmerising. She yearns for freedom but never wants to leave her mother and sisters, she lives and dreams stories and longs to be a successful writer, driven by the desire to support her family financially. Jo is a nineteenth century feminist, the angle that Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster pursued to great effect. The story lends itself to musicals, where internal conflicts and passion can be brought to life through song (music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein) with a string quartet and key-board managing to create an orchestral feel, well suited to the in the intimate Park theatre.
Running at nearly 2hrs 45 (including interval) it takes a while to warm up and a few cuts might have helped but by the second half we are well rewarded. For those who grew up with the famous novel, this is a heart-felt tribute with the added bonus of a rousing score.