Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is a story told in many forms, from a BBC television series to an Oscar Nominated film we have watched the March sisters grow into the kind and perfectly imperfect women we all know and love. Kit Salter-Kay, the director of LUU’s Music Theatre Society’s Little Women, says “We see women like Jo, Amy, Beth and Meg within ourselves today. We see women like Marmee in our friends and family. Though Alcott’s novel was written over 150 years ago, these characters and their stories resonate with us now.” This exact universality and timelessness is brought to life by an astounding cast and beautiful musical accompaniment, wholly and completely engrossing you in the world of Alcott’s Concord, Massachusetts.
As I entered the Riley Smith Theatre, the curtains were drawn, the lights went down and the band began to tune-up, and we were plunged into darkness. The music started to swell, and as the curtains were drawn back, we were immediately transported into the world of Little Women. Immediately, I got the coveted feelings of butterflies in my stomach and goosebumps down my arms, and I knew that I was in for a wonderful time.
Greeted by a simple, yet effective set, the story began in the boarding house where a grown-up Jo March (Tally Soames) is working as a teacher. One by one, we are introduced to each character, moving back and forth between the present day and the past. Thanks to the steady and thoughtful direction, each character we met felt fully formed and consistent throughout. The entire cast was incredible, everyone performed with confidence, care, and completely embodied each character they played. Particular kudos go out to Joe Bennett and Eliza Jones for stepping into the roles of Mr Laurence and Braxton with such ease.
Two actors stood out in particular, the first being Caitlin Doyle who played Aunt March and Mrs Kirk. With impeccable comedic timing and a complete physical and vocal transformation between characters, Doyle had the audience in fits of laughter and totally enthralled by her performance. Playing Jo March, Tally Soames was utterly captivating, while some may be tempted to compare her performance to the many Jos that have come before her, Soames managed to bring new vigour and excitement to the role that leads the audience so expertly through every high and low the spirited tomboy experienced. Soames also stunned us with her powerhouse vocals, each song was performed with such clarity and control, I was astonished from the moment she opened her mouth. However, Jo would be nothing without her loved ones, and the rest of the March family/Laurence clan did not disappoint. With equally as charming performances and strong vocals, the cast and ensemble together created an atmosphere of such fun, it truly felt like I was watching a family grow together.
The musical and technical accompaniment bolstered the brilliant direction and performances, with only minor technical difficulties going practically unnoticed due to the professionalism of the cast. The band was clearly composed of a group of talented musicians who injected passion and skill into every song. I’ll admit I was intrigued and maybe even sceptical as to how the ‘musical’ element was going to work in Alcott’s world, but from the minute the music picked up any reservation was immediately dashed.
I’ve seen a lot of theatre in my life, but never have I seen a show that allowed me to have so much fun. This production is bursting at the seams with talent, creativity and love. While tackling issues of sexism, oppression and the trials of growing up, Music Theatre Society’s production of Little Women guides you expertly through the lives of the March Women having you fall in love with each and every single character along the way. I think it’s safe to say this production left me absolutely delighted.
There are still tickets available for tonight’s (29th Feb) show here: https://www.leedstickets.com/eventinfo/6353/Music-Theatre-presents-Little-Women
This production was written by Allan Knee, with music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein.
Image Credit: Abby Swain