Adapted from the beloved book by Louisa May Alcott, and a piece that has subsequently permeated throughout every form of the arts industry, making a huge impact for over 100 years, Little Women is playing at the Park Theatre this festive season. After seeing the fantastic directing work of Bronagh Lagan previously, and experiencing other shows at this wonderful little venue, this one was bound to be a treat.
A highly intuitive set adorns the stage, comprised of two levels as to become both the attic and downstairs simultaneously. With lots of books around, it is an immediate nod towards the impact that literature has on the family, as well as that of the original novel on so many lives. The screen at the back, mainly used to give the effects of the weather, adds just the right amount of immersion, without being too empowering, to bring everything together. Nik Corrall has created an ideal set for this piece of theatre, generating a delightful space for the narrative of the four March sisters to take place.
First being introduced to Jo, the audience get a taste for her fire and passion as she enthusiastically describes her coming-of-age novel to Professor Bhaer (Ryan Bennett). Full of dreams though feeling rejected for her outlandish works, she reconciles in her family, who thoroughly support her freshly written operatic tragedy. Lydia White does an excellent job portraying her character, and really displays her raw talent while leading this cast. Joined by Anastasia Martin as the gentle and kind Beth, the bouncy, young Amy, played by Mary Moore, and Liv Andrusier as the lovable oldest sister, Meg, the bond between them is immediately evident, and depicts the strong sisterhood foundations centre to the the story of love and loss to come. Living with their mother, whom they call Marmee (Savannah Stevenson), they all begin to grow into their own little women.
Aunt March, a wealthy widow, is keen to offer her advice to Jo on how to get out in the world in 'Could You?', which further inspires her to want to explore life beyond her home. Potential love interest, eccentric Laurie (Sev Keoshgerian) does a somewhat comedic rendition of 'Take a Chance on Me', when trying to persuade Jo to break away from her stubbornness for independence, while romantic John Brooke, played by Lejaun Sheppard, quite simply wins the heart of 'perfect little woman' Meg.
Using roller-skates to mimic ice-skates is a clever and memorable inclusion, and the moments between Jo and Beth flying the kite are performed skilfully, and hold some beautiful yet poignant sense of symbolism. Similarly, before this, Mr Laurence (Brian Protheroe) unites with Beth over the piano, playing the delightful tune 'Off to Massachusetts', which is a bittersweet duet for the pair.
The score as a whole is charming, with each song woven in well, and lyrics carefully chosen. 'Here Alone' is a solo by Marmee about her husband going to war, however 'Delighted' is an upbeat track, whereby she demonstrates to the sisters how they should act when asked to dance at the ball. 'Five Forever' is another track that brings the girls together, along with Laurie, to highlight their importance of family solidarity. To conclude the first act, Jo has a mesmerising solo with 'Astonishing', when reflecting upon her decisions thus far, with the second beginning with an updated version of the novel from earlier, as further evidence of her strong character development. As the show draws to a close, she and Professor Bhaer perform 'Small Umbrella in the Rain', which is a lovely conclusion to who Jo is becoming as a woman, and leaving the audience filled with hope, after being so immersed and invested in her tale.
This retelling of Little Women does the story perfect justice and more: it is a marvel. There is pure joy and sadness, and everything in between, presented elegantly on stage, with songs that wonderfully enhance the piece, adding another dynamic. It is simply not one to miss.