Theatre review: Little Women: The Broadway Musical
Freda Worrell Reviews The Shotgun Theatre’s Little Woman: The Broadway Musical
“Astonishing” is both a number from the Shotgun theatre performance of Little Women, The Broadway musical, and my reaction to it. Originally written by Allen Knee, with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jessica Howland, I have to admit I arrived at the evening performance somewhat sceptical. Like many other English Literature students I have quite a strong attachment to the March sisters and was curious to see whether the musical approach could capture such nuanced characters.
I was “delighted”, however, to see that aside from breaking out into song, there was no deviation from the beloved characters we all know so well. Meg was wistful and romantic, Jo was feisty and formidable, Beth benevolent and wise and Amy as determined and charming as ever. Of course certain creative liberties had to be taken, to condense such a lengthy novel into 135 minute run time but it managed to encapsulate everything we love best about the story; we saw the unbreakable bond between family, Jo’s “fire within her” and the friendship that blossoms between her and Laurie.
Meg was wistful and romantic, Jo was feisty and formidable, Beth benevolent and wise and Amy as determined and charming as ever.
We also saw some moments glossed over by previous adaptations, Marmie’s gut wrenching solo showed her inability to be honest with her husband about her struggles, instead choosing to put on a brave face and keep raising her “little women”. We got to delve into Jo’s world of “blood and guts” as the ensemble performed her stories.
Perhaps my favourite choice made was the set design of their attic. The little sanctuary of the sisters is perhaps the most important setting within the play. When we first walked into the theatre we saw Jo sat scribbling away on a ledge, beneath a beam that held a small window. Throughout the show we saw the beam rise and fall, transforming the stage from attic to living room. This small action felt like a drawbridge allowing the audience to step inside the sister’s haven of stories and plays.
I enjoyed seeing a different side to the supporting characters; Aunt March’s comedic timing was spot on and Laurie had a larger than life boyish charm that fit right at home in this musical setting (somehow I feel the famous Chalemet pout would have been a bit off putting). Mr Brooke, Grandpa Lawrence and the Professor are perhaps the most reserved characters of the book but in this play were given much more leeway to express themselves. I found myself more interested than before in the relationship between Meg and Brooke, which I feel is often swept under the rug.
I enjoyed seeing a different side to the supporting characters; Aunt March’s comedic timing was spot on and Laurie had a larger than life boyish charm that fit right at home in this musical setting.
Despite a brief interruption from a fire alarm (apparently the alarm took issue with the smoke machine) it was a wonderful evening and an amazing performance from Shotgun Theatre- I look forward to seeing what they do next!