Thursday, November 13, 2008

Little Women Opening Night: 'Amazing', 'Astonishing', and so much more

Tonight I had the privilege, as the Kookaburra Kids Youth ambassador, to attend the Opening Night of Australia's premiere production of Little Women: The Broadway Musical.

The very first thing I want to say is; what a wonderful way to spend three hours of your life! I would heartily recommend it to anyone, young or old.

Little Women, based on Louisa May Alcott's 19th Century novel, follows the tragedies and triumphs of the four March sisters - feisty Jo(an aspiring author), romantic Meg, pretentious Amy, and kind-hearted Beth - and their beloved Marmee, at their home in Massachusetts while their father is fighting in the Civil War.

I found a quote in the program interesting:

"Louisa May Alcott did for women what Thomas Edison did for the light bulb: gave them a new gleam of importance and respect never before seen in the society of the day."
Emma Caddy; Little Women theatre program.

In a way, Little Women pushed boundaries in it's 1860s Victorian context. Rowdy and tomboyish Jo paid no heed to societal conventions and rather independently sought to forge her own path led by the passion and desire she found within herself. Although the musical is a period piece, its themes of family, friendship and search for love and meaning in life are timeless.

What is most uplifting about the story, however, is Jo's fighting spirit. She has a good heart and gives her all, never giving up on her dreams, even when times get tough. Jo is a fantastic heroine, and her hopefulness and determination can speak to any generation.

When approaching the musical, I was no stranger to Little Women. Of course I had seen the 1994 version with Winona Ryder, and knew the touching story like anyone, however the 2005 original Broadway production staring the phenomenal Sutton Foster is what caught my eye.

Not only is the script witting and charming, but the music soars. I believe it can stand up to the megamusical giants. I wouldn't quite say 'move over Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Les Miserables, here comes Little Women', however there is something about this musical that provides an ultimate enchanting evening. It has a winning combination: a touching story, beautiful music, visually stunning costumes, and an outstanding cast(and direction).

Australia's very own take, via the talents of director Stuart Maunder, was of a very high standard. The set design was intriguing, particularly the use of a two part-revolving stage(in theatre of the round) to change scene location and enhance solo performances. The costuming was simply perfect, full of vibrant colours and intricate detail with fitting shade patterns for each character. Direction was seamless and the choreography(Martin Michel) left me wanting to get up and join in the fun!

More than anything, the key stand-out feature of the production was the perfectly-suited cast. Anyone who criticises Australia for lacking talent needs to see this musical. For Kate Maree Hoolihan(who is a lovely person to chat to), it seemed as though Jo, the 'lead', was made for her. Her acting was phenomenal, and she gives every performance so much energy, you cannot help admiring her. Kate Maree performed Jo with all the gusto and spirit she required, and added a little of her own spicy self into the mix, nicely so.

Jodie Harris who played Beth also has a beautiful voice, quite similar to Megan McGinnis of the original cast (with less vibrato). I could listen to her voice all day, and her performance of 'Some things are meant to be' was touching.

Hayden Tee played a very convincing Fritz. He had an impeccable German accent and baritone voice, I would say the most flawless of the cast.

Other than Kate Maree Hoolihan, the other stand out was Erica Lovell's performance in the role of Amy. This surprised me as Amy is such a dis-likable character, which usually turns me off admiring the actress as much as you would the heroine(as silly as that sounds), however the fact that she was absolutely hilarious is no under-statement. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed as the animated Erica pranced and sulked around the stage. In fact, when my eye was not drawn to a particular spot, I often found myself watching Amy's reactions. Erica Lovell is a polished all-round performer and highly entertaining to watch, and for her musical debut she gave an outstanding performance.

Of the other members of the cast, Trisha Noble was a very good Marmee, Judi Conelli delivers as expected as Aunt March, Octavia Baron Martin is always a pleasure to watch and shines onstage with a natural beauty about her(very fitting for Meg), David Harris as John Brooke is charming, Phillip Hinton plays a earnest Mr Laurence and Stephen Mahy was a lovable Laurie. Each cast member truly did a wonderful job(and I would not say that unless I utterly believed it). They interacted like a real family, creating a very warm and safe atmosphere, just like a family home. This ony draws us, the audience, even further into the beautiful tale.

As someone who loves musicals, and has seen and listened to her fair share of them; the good, the brilliant and the not-so-good, I would categorise this production as brilliant. In the end, I can, in no major or minor way fault it.

I honestly approached tonight excited, but feeling Kate Maree and the cast had big shoes to fill(playing such beloved characters and proceeding theatre legends such as Sutton Foster and Maureen McGovern), however I simply cannot wait to see the show again this Saturday and the following Sunday.

Although I am not naive enough to believe musical theatre is for everyone, if I were asked to recommend a musical, this would certainly be in my top three(following Phantom and Wicked- yes, I'm a sucker for mega-musicals).

More than anything, I urge all of you to spend a little of your time and money to see Little Women while it runs it's limited 5 week season.

I am not only saying that because I believe Kookaburra has, and is, doing wonderful things for Australia as our very first national musical theatre company, and will play an integral role in the future of Australian musical theatre, pathing the way for aspiring performers like myself. It is because I cannot express just how much I believe others will thoroughly enjoy this musical and production, even if musical theatre isn't 'your thing'. I took a friend of mine, who had never been to a live musical in his life, and he loved it and sang it's praises the entire way home.

Also, the beautiful musical direction by the extremely talented Peter Rutherford (Composer of the new Australian musical, the Hatpin, among many other musicals) cannot go unmentioned. Peter is a very insightful young man, and a great asset to the Australian arts.

To conclude, I strongly urge you all to watch Little Women, you will not regret it.

And after you have seen the show, let me know your thoughts and post your own personal review, I'd love to hear them!


Location: Seymour Centre(York Theatre)

Season: Nov 5- Dec 7

For direct tickets, visit:

Or access through Kookaburra's site:

I'm including loads of photos because there are so many beautiful ones I couldn't choose!

Taaha and I at Opening Night:

No comments: