Hope Mill Theatre in Ancoats is the perfect setting for the European premiere of Little Women the Musical with its homely charm and welcoming atmosphere.
The performance venue has been open for two years now, gaining a reputation for its diverse choice of productions and personal touches that have audiences returning in their masses to catch the latest offering.
The classic Louisa May Alcott novel transferred from page to stage back in 2005 when it opened on Broadway with a score by Grammy Award winner Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. Lovers of the original book will be pleased to know there’s little change in adapting the story for the theatre; it follows the adventures of the four March sisters – Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy as they journey through heartache, adolescence and love, set against the backdrop of the American Civil war.
There are very few productions around that have a plethora of strong roles for women and Little Women the Musical is one of them. Casting director Jane Deitch has done a sterling job of finding the perfect set of actresses to play the siblings, all equally brilliant in their performances.
Leading the pack is Amie Giselle-Ward who gives an energetic performance as the headstrong, Jo, striving to make it as a writer and dreaming of a life of adventure. Ward puts her all into the role creating an impulsive and feisty Jo that sweeps you along with her. At times you feel exhausted watching her playful portrayal which is so full of fizz you think she might burst. There’s no doubting Ward is a superb actress and vocally astonishing to watch perform, but if she was able to tone the excitement down just ten percent it would have given the character a little more light and shade. Having said that, you feel that this is definitely a role that sees her shine and shows her potential to be a big musical theatre star in the future.
Strong support comes in the form of the other three sisters; Katie-Marie Carter is hilarious as the self-obsessed Amy, Cathy Read captures the genteel and sweet nature of Beth perfectly and Jemma Watling should be praised for her portrayal of the innocent Meg. Anna Stolli must also be mentioned as the matriarch of the brood, Marnee, her solo Days of Plenty is superb and belted out with emotion.
Director Bronagh Lagan and Designer Nik Corrall have well and truly brought the book to life with this production. Corral’s set opens like a doll’s house to reveal a number of rustic areas, from the March’s living room to a professors study. There’s even an impressive ice rink with snow falling on to it! The combination of Corrall’s design with Ben M Rogers use of shadow lighting is simplistic but effective, and both make great use of the compact performance space that Hope Mill Theatre has to offer.
Fans of the classic tale will not be disappointed with Little Women the Musical. This is a brilliant production in a fantastic setting which will guarantee you will leave with a warm glow inside, ready for the Christmas season to start.
Little Women the Musical runs at Hope Mill Theatre from 9th November to 9th December.
For more information go to www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk