Little Women the Musical directed and produced by Olivia Ruggiero (Olivia Ruggiero Productions) is full of proud momma moments. Every bit of this classic story about love, family and following your dreams is told from the heart.
Little Women’s author, Louisa May Alcott, based the story on her own life, writing about her upbringing and coming-of-age as a young woman full of ideas and dreams of big thing to come. The book became a bestseller around the world, remaining consistently popular after its first publication in 1868. The story centres on four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – finding their identity and place in the world within a family experiencing hardships and separation during the war. As sisters they are close, but very different from one another. Meg (played by Phoebe Fuary) is romantic, Jo (Alana De Gois) is passionate and ambitious to become a famous author, Beth (Tiarna Phipps) is shy and very humble, and Amy (Ruby Strohmayer) yearns for the finer things in life like going to parties to mingle with rich people. Little Women offers a commentary on all these things, but most of all, it is a story about dreamers.
This youth production is simply gorgeous from start to finish with very convincing performances by young children in grown-up roles, particularly Addison Melville as Aunt March, Rewhenua Tattersall as Professor Bhaer and Madison De Gois (Alana’s younger sister) as Marmee, the matriarch of the family. I couldn’t imagine how a younger sister would play the mother to her older sister, but it was very effective and felt ‘real’. Jeremy Russell as John Brooke, James Fuary as Mr Laurence and Seamus Fuary as Laurie also shine in their roles. It is down to the cast’s talent, enthusiasm and maturity, shaped by Olivia Ruggiero, that makes this show a success. Olivia is a well versed Little Women aficionado, having played the role of Jo in her hometown of Bathurst. She told Sydney Theatre Reviews in our podcast: “I think the really awesome thing about this particular cast, is they’ve brought their experience to it, their age, but also, they’ve brought this incredible modernity. Because they are this generation. So Little Women is a story that absolutely has transcended ages, and this new production we have fostered will speak to a younger audience too.”
Alana De Gois who plays Jo also added: “Jo is trying to tell the world that’s she’s not just one thing, she wants to be everything. She says “I may be small, but I’ve got giant plans to shine as brightly as the sun.” She wants to live her big dreams and pursue her passion that she wants for her life. And she says she can feel it, but it’s far from her and she has to find it on her own, so she has to take that journey in her life to pursue her dreams and gain her passion.”
As a musical production, the songs give the story tonality and emotion that isn’t necessarily accessible in a straight play. In the book, Jo’s famous line is:
“Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for.“
Her songs bring out all the shades of her fiery, non-conformist personality that speaks to a yearning and a hunger for a meaningful life beyond domesticated bliss, particularly when we see her imaginary characters in the aisles performing a thrilling swashbuckling scene. The audience becomes immersed in this fantasy and can ‘see’ what Jo sees in her wonderful imagination.
Another touching, quieter moment is when Jo and Beth are on the shore, playing with kite. Beth is very weak and close to death after contracting scarlet fever. This precious moment with Jo is what little she has left before her time passes on. The song “Some Things Are Meant To Be” is a tender, heartbreaking moment that conveys the sorrow creeping over them.
The steady piano accompaniment by Matthew Dobell-Brown complemented the scenes perfectly, while the introduction of props and transition between scenes was handled seamlessly, with the sitting room acting as the main “heart” of the action.
The costumes by Naomi Russell, Natalie Khoury and Fiona Wardrop are done with painstaking hours of love and care, including sourcing and making alterations to the costumes for several characters and scene changes. The time period is kept faithful to the book while contrasting the dowdiness of the March sisters with their wealthy neighbours and relatives. When the sisters finally have a chance to dress up and go to a ball, the gowns are vibrant and pop with beautiful, shimmering colours, giving that sense of joy when a child is transformed into a beautiful prince or princess. The scene is topped with a wonderful line from Meg: “I went to the party as a child….and came back as a woman!“
With sparkling dialogue, heartfelt tunes and a wonderful rapport between the cast and crew, Little Woman the Musical was a huge hit with the crowd, and a show not to be missed for the world.
Little Women the Musical is playing at Fairfield School of Arts till 4 June 2023. For tickets and showtimes go to https://events.humanitix.com/little-women-the-musical
Image credit: Grant Wiggins and Jaimie-Lee Kliendiest.