It's typical, isn't it? You wait for one musical adaptation of a literary classic to come along and then two come along at once. They're like buses in that respect... not that buses even existed when either of these books were first written. Following the triumphant Pride and Prejudice (Sort of) is a slightly more faithful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's timeless classic Little Women.
First published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, Little Women has stood the test of time, being made into countless adaptations across film, TV and theatre. This musical adaptation began life as a workshop in 2001 before heading to Broadway for a short run in 2005. It made its debut in the UK in 2017 at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. Now, the team behind that last production are bringing it to London where it is playing a season at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.
If you have never read the book or seen any adaptation before, Little Women tells the story of four sisters as they come-of-age, fall in love and generally grow. Translating 750 pages into a musical that is little more than two hours long may seem like a tall order and runs the risk of watering down the plot so much that you lose the essense of what the show is about. Thankfully, Little Women doesn't have that problem. In a speedy runtime, it manages to flesh out all of the characters, giving them clear characteristics and their own stories while endearing them to the audience in an adaptation that is all killer, no filler.
The four sisters are led by Lydia White who gives a captivating performance as Jo, coming to terms with her own growth while navigating her sisters lives - all the while pushing the story forward through her own stories. The biggest and perhaps most complicated role in the show, Lydia gives a masterclass in performing - emotional, funny and always demanding attention from the audience. All this while showcasing incredible vocals.
Jo's three sisters Meg, Beth and Amy are played by Hana Ichijo, Anastasia Martin and Mary Moore. All give well-rounded performances and exhibit fantastic chemistry together while ensuring they all get their own moments to stand out. Their mother Marmee is played by Savannah Stevenson - having formerly played Glinda in Wicked, she gives a performance as wonderful as ever, attempting to be the glue that holds together the very different sisters in a relatable and utterly charming performance. Their family is completed with the small but memorable role of Aunt March, played in scene-stealing fashion by Bernadine Pritchett,.
Another standout performance comes from Sev Keoshgerian who plays the sweet, innocent and instantly loveable Laurie. Showing off an incredible singing voice, Sev proves he can hold his own against a group of powerhouse women. The cast is completed by Ryan Bennett, Brian Protherhoe and Lejaun Sheppard who all get their own turn to shine on stage in what is a consistently high performing cast.
The musical numbers, written by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein feel instantly familiar. Keeping a safe route of more conventional musical theatre numbers, they allow the cast to showcase their brilliant talents, with Lydia White's 'Astonishing' and 'The Fire Within Me' among the highlights. 'Delighted' is an instant earworm, 'Off to Massachusetts' feels like an old standard while certain musical moments feel like they could be straight out of a Disney movie - that may seem like a strange comparison, but given their high quality, that is the highest of compliments. With musical direction from Leo Munby, the songs truly come to life around the theatre.
Directed by Bronagh Lagan and produced by the always fabulous Aria Entertainment, the high standard the creative team are used to extend to this production. While they may be used to larger West End spaces in recent times, Little Women has to make do with a small and simple stage. This, however, is always used to its full potential, never allowing the audience to be bored by the limited and static set. This is a show where the audience share Jo's imagination in what could be - and with a cast as ridiculously talented as all of the ones on this stage, no bells and whistles are required to ensure the story is still believably told.
Overall, Little Women is a great little show. With a brilliant cast and some fantastic material to work with, it is a pleasant adaptation of an absolute classic. Beginning in the capital in a jewel of a venue that is the Park Theatre, this is a show that deserves to be seen by a wider audience in the years to come.
Little Women plays at the Park Theatre until December 19th. Tickets from www.parktheatre.co.uk