Little Women

Date 20th September 2018
Society In Your Face Theatre (Seaham)
Venue Seaham Town Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Helen Abraham
Musical Director Tim Jasper

Report

Author: Peter Oliver

Little Women is the first book in a trilogy of stories by Louisa May Alcott it tells the story of four sisters living in Massachusetts during the American civil war, this classic adaptation by Allan Knee with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland first came to the stage on Broadway in 2005 before making its debut in England in 2017, therefore I was so thrilled when it was announced that In Your Face Theatre Seaham had chosen this musical to premiere in the North Region.

Whilst I had heard of the book I had to rely on my mother to fill in the gaps as she had played the part of Beth many years ago in her school play. Helen Abraham as director used her skills and determination to transform the musical from page to stage and what a fantastic job she did, I was absolutely thrilled by the whole production it was clearly obvious that there had been an enormous amount of work put into this production in terms of its direction and character interpretation and this enabled the cast to bring this classical story to life. The musical numbers were beautiful delivered thanks to Tim Jasper as musical director who supported the cast to deliver some beautiful musical numbers. Staging is always difficult in small venues, therefore it was nice to see that they had chosen to perform the production in the crest style whilst not many shows can be performed this way I felt that Little Women lent itself to this style of performance and enabled the audience to engage intensely with the action and provided that intimacy for the audience to feel part of the story. The set was well designed and in keeping with the era, and congratulations must go to  the wardrobe  department the costumes were beautiful and in keeping with the period, I particularly liked the troll costume and the attention to detail with the props even down to a real Christmas tree and I loved the authentic wheel chair and boat. This consideration to detail  certainly made the production stand out even down to the family portrait which had a superimposed picture of the sister’s father a fitting tribute to the  late Rupert Hanson who was the Director and conductor of Seaham Symphony Orchestra well done to the technical team Gary Ward on lighting and Duncan Baxter on sound they ensured that the production side enhanced the performance.

There are only a few musicals that encompass a plethora of strong female roles and Little Women is one of them, Helen and the production team did a sterling job of finding the perfect cast of actresses to premiere this musical. Whilst the story focuses on all the sisters it is centred on Jo the second eldest of the four sisters, her character strives to make it as a writer and dreams of life and adventure, played by Stephanie Peacock she delivered a fist class  performance of this headstrong, energetic and loyal character to its finest and for me was the driving force behind most of the scenes; her superb acting and vocal ability enabled her to exemplify the best parts of Jo presenting an energetic performance full of light and shade her musical numbers were well delivered full of passion and emotion and I particularly enjoyed  “Astonishing” and “The Fire Within Me”  which were beautifully delivered. Strong support came in the form of the other three sisters Emily Kerr played Amy junior this young lady had fantastic stage presence and certainly held her own against the cast of adults great characterisations and certainly made an impression with the audience, Steph Crew played Amy senior, Steph confidently brought out the self-obsessed characterisation of the character and vocally blended with her other sisters in her musical numbers. Rachel Smith as the ill-fated Beth showed her stage experience in this very emotional role, she captured the sweet and genteel nature of Beth perfectly and her duet with Jo “Some Things Are Meant To Be” was very emotional and moving and I loved how this tragic scene was directed with Beth walking into the light, and finally Meg played by Zoe Cooke who I love to watch on stage she has the natural ability to draw in the audience with her exceptional acting ability, excellent stage presence and exceptional vocals, I particularly liked her duet “More Than I” with Ethan Roberts which was beautifully delivered. Emily Harrison delivered a sterling performance as the matriarch of the family Marmee March she portrayed this character with confidence and style, her solo numbers “Days Of Plenty” and “Home Alone” were superb, delivered with feeling and emotion. Aunt March played by Katrina Wake was excellent she managed to strike the balance between humour and melancholic perfectly, this young lady has bags of talent, playing a woman much older than herself Katrina put all her acting skills into the role and delivered a first class performance and I enjoyed the beautiful duet “Could You” with Jo. As to the men Shaun Crosby delivered a strong performance as Professor Bhaer his German accent was well maintained throughout and he delivered a confident and much controlled performance I loved his solo number “”How Am I” and his duet with Jo “Small Umbrella In The Rain” both numbers were well presented. Ethan Roberts played the dashing Rodrigo the hero from Jo’s story book and John Brooke Laurie’s tutor again good stage presence and some lovely scenes with Meg. 

Matthew Lowery played both Braxton the story book villain and Laurie Laurence, again a strong and confident performance in both roles his interaction with both Jo and Amy were well delivered and I particularly enjoyed his musical number “Take a Chance On Me” in the boxing scene and his duet with Amy “The Most Amazing Thing” and finally Peter Round who delivered a solid performance as Mr Laurence capturing the stern and  intimidating personality,  it was good to see the change in the character as the story developed and I liked how Beth brought out the softer side of his personality, vocally I enjoyed his duet with Beth  “Off To Massachusetts”. Whilst all of the musical numbers were well delivered I must mention and congratulation the cast involved with the musical number and the scene from Jo’s book “The Weekly Volcano Press” I felt the interpretation and acting was superb, Sam J Scott looked fantastic as the Troll, good performance from Daniel Rush as the knight, Catherine Hillam as Clarissa and Anne Peacock as the maid great performance from all the cast involved in this number which was well accomplished.

The overall standard of this production was exceptional and my heartiest congratulations must go to the production team and cast for delivering a first class production, well done to everyone at In Your Face Theatre Seaham.