Little Women The Musical

Date 30th July 2022
Society South Manchester AOS
Venue Altrincham Little Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Laura Aremia
Musical Director Tom Pieczora
Written By Alan Knee

Report

Author: Liz Hume-Dawson

South Manchester decided to add another show to their season and chose Little Women - The Broadway Musical at a venue new to them, Altrincham Little Theatre.

Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott the team of Book - Allan Knee, Music - Jason Howland and Lyrics - Mindi Dickstein turn this well-loved story into a musical that has a modern touch and almost Disney feel at times.

A big hats off to the director Laura Aremia whose directorial debut it was and to pick such an ambitious piece she must have learnt something from her dad. The casting was excellent all round and use of the relatively small stage was put to good effect. The movement was minimal but just right for the staging and the upstage vignettes. With a well thought out set, chaise longue down stage right, up stage left writing desk and chair, candles effect adorned the set and books piled up here and there the whole thing had a very intimate & literary feel.  Just one small thing - and maybe just me - I was confused with some entrances and exits i.e. where was the front door entrance and where was it into the house? That said I was immensely impressed with Laura’s vison

Lighting was unobtrusive as it should have been and sound too, Lighting by Christopher Osborn and Sound by John Omerod.  The songs flowed well and pitched just right. Although the Orchestra and Musical Director were not seen, Tom Pieczora led the orchestra wonderfully comprising of Corey Gerrard, Rebecca Howell, Martha O’Sullivan. Robbie Richardson and Phil Williams. I did get to see Tom at the end on screen with his cheeky wink and blown kiss to the audience – fabulous!

The cast dressed appropriately for the time & did a sterling job with the characterization and libretto.

Richard Ross as Mr Laurence - angry and looking for someone to shout at - was softened by sweet Beth and her kindness. And it was great to see his character ease during the song Off to Massachusetts - well done!

Kieron Hatton playing John Brooke really embodied the role and gave a sympathetic performance and worked very well with Lauren Massey. It was quite touching to see their romance blossom. He also looked the part in his uniform - super work!

Juliet Bowers-Smith took on two roles as the landlady Mrs Kirke and Aunt March. Juliet delivered some stinging lines as Aunt March and I wouldn’t want to cross her. Great characterization and Juliet must have had fun with these roles.  Even with the line “I do not like that dress!” she did not mince her words - brilliant!

Alex Re as the tongue-tied academic Professor Fredrick Bhaer has some lovely moments with the character Jo and he certainly took his time in romancing her.  His song How I Am explaining his plight was heartfelt - a delightful performance!

Connor J Ryan as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence - I loved his energy - he lit up the stage when he came on with his vigor - he did a great job with his character and more – bravo!

Steph Niland as Margaret “Marmee” March was a delight, perfectly capturing her essence - when an actress just hits the right note it is a joy to watch and I thought this is West End standard. Her song Days of Plenty was perfection in tone and emotion - excellent!

Emily Leeland played the part of Elizabeth “Beth” March, the softer of the March sisters - this part could have faded into the background but with skill and an empathetic touch to the character Emily gave a well-rounded performance and Somethings Are Meant To Be was lovely. You really could get the connection between Beth and Jo-lovely!

Madeleine Healy was the youngest sister Amy March who grew up before our eyes, starting of as what can only be described as a brat and burning her sister’s writing book to being taking under Aunty March’s wing and blossoming into a fine young woman. Thank goodness for Aunt March is all I can say (I really was cross with her when she burned the book, by the way) - great performance!

Lauren Massey took on Margaret “Meg” March who falls in Love with John Brooke as I said earlier they worked well together and their story was believable. As the more frivolous sister she touched on it just right.- delightful!

Last but by no means least was Philippa Shellard who took on the mammoth task of Jo rarely off stage. Philippa embraced the character wholeheartedly. Physically she took on the tomboyish stance of Jo and the plethora of emotions she went through over the two acts was astonishing. Jo is intense and it must be exhausting to take on such a role. Philippa took this all in her stride and was the glue for the production-Outstanding!  I say this but at anytime this could have come unstruck if all had not played their part. Great casting and all-round production, cast, crew and committee must be very proud.

Thank you for making Matthew and I so welcome.