Based on Louisa May Alcott’s timeless tale, Little Women the musical tells the story of the four March sisters. With a beautiful and moving score that lifts the story straight off the page and onto the stage, the Hope Mill Theatre creates the perfect setting for this heartwarming musical.
With their father off fighting in the Civil War, Jo March uses her inner strength to step up and play the father figure role for the sisters, keeping spirits high. Determined to be a writer, she is constantly bringing her stories to life with the help of her sisters, and she pioneers to become a world-renowned writer in order to support her family.
Set inside the intimate Hope Mill Theatre, it quite literally feels as if you are part of the March family and sat inside their home watching the story unfold. The house opens and closes like a doll’s house, which is cleverly designed by Nik Corrall. This is enhanced by Ben M Rogers’ lighting design which really encapsulates the warmth of the story into his subtle yet stunning design.
Taking on the lead role of feisty young Jo is Amie Giselle-Ward, whose expression and commitment to the role is astounding. It’s a demanding role as Jo is on stage throughout most of the production and she requires a tremendous amount of energy, but Amie Giselle-Ward manages this effortlessly. She is a natural fit for the feminist character that fights for what she believes in and doesn’t conform. Amie Giselle-Ward performs with a huge amount of emotion and a real fire within her which shines through her powerful vocals, particularly in her emotionally stirring solo Astonishing.
The bond between the March sisters is unbreakable, despite what happens they always remain together and it’s incredibly charming to watch. Eldest sister Meg played by Jemima Watling brings a sense of sophistication as she sets an example for the younger sisters. Watling’s vocals are impeccable which is displayed in her romantic duet with Mr Brooke played by Joel Harper-Jackson. Bringing the comedy to the family is youngest sister Amy, played by Katie Marie-Carter who struggles to grow up in the sisters’ shadow and her bratty behaviour at the start of the show is superbly funny. As the sweetest and least outgoing of the sisters, Cathy Read does an excellent job portraying the angelic nature of Beth, who is a real calming influence on the sisters.
There are some highly poignant moments in the show between Beth and Jo, and Cathy and Amie capture the delicacy of the heart-rending duet Some Things Are Meant To Be. The mother of the family, played by Anna Stolli, does her best to guide the sisters to grow up to be strong women. Her relationship with Jo is important and their duet Days Of Plenty is charged with emotion.
Jo strikes up a friendship with next door neighbour Laurie, played by Connor Hughes, who brings a wonderful naivety to the show. Laurie is eager to please Jo and feel part of the March family which is wonderfully sweet to watch. As the most prominent male character in the show, he has a delightful nature but the sisters completely dominate him as he particularly struggles to keep up with Jo and her wild ideas. Hughes’ characterisation is marvellous and his solo number Take A Chance On Me is performed with an abundance of energy and charisma.
When Jo packs up and moves to New York to pursue her dream, she moves into a boarding house which is occupied by Professor Bhaer, played by Johan Munir. We meet him both at the start and end of the production, seeing their friendship grow. Munir’s portrayal of the German professor is exceptional and it’s captivating to watch his relationship with Jo as the unlikely pair warm to one another.
Director Bronagh Lagan has created the perfect heartfelt Christmas show that will make you laugh, cry and warm your heart by stirring all of your emotions. It’s an important story, that despite being set in the past feels incredibly modern as the fearless Jo March fights against society to achieve her dream. Little Women the musical is an absolute triumph in storytelling and the high-quality production and outstanding cast are a fine example of the power of fringe theatre.
Little Women is on at the Hope Mill Theatre until the 9th of December, tickets and information can be found here.