The Musical Theatre Society’s production of Little Women opened to a sold out Byre theatre on 14 November. Based on the renowned 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, the musical was full of touching moments, heartfelt encounters, and genuinely catchy musical numbers. The production, directed by Lily Bates and produced by Jaden Jones, carried by an impressively adept cast, thoroughly captured the spirit and feel of the timeless story.
Jo, played by Jasmine Willans, was the beating heart of the show. Willans’ performance was vibrant and energetic, fulfilling the emotional depth of her character. Songs such as ‘Astonishing’ truly lived up to their name when paired with Willans’ musical ability. With a lively physicality, she not only captured the dynamic and ambitious nature of Jo, but conveyed the moving experiences of growing into adulthood, having to leave behind both the trivialities and the joys of childhood.
Bella Yow as Amy gave one of the most powerful performances of the show, as her character progressed from a relatable depiction of a younger sister trying to live up to the expectations before her, to an accomplished young woman. Undoubtedly, her relationship with Jo brought both tension and excitement to the musical, both actors putting forth striking performances depicting strong-willed young women.
Hanna Ward’s Meg and Margo Anderson’s Beth, though playing more quiet characters, brought to life charming and timeless representations of growing up, and the bonds made along the way; Beth and Jo’s relationship being the emotional core of the musical.
The musical’s comedic side was very well brought out, with amusing one-liners and quips. The male characters, though few in number, deserve recognition for their contributions to the show’s humour and spirit. Dylan Swain as Professor Bhaer was an endearing, virtuous though clumsy love interest, performed with convincing physicality and a rather impressive German accent. Owen Leidich, an awkward yet equally charming Michael Cera-esque Laurie, brought out the humour of the show with delightful accuracy, alongside Callum Wardman-Browne an amiable, amusing John Brooke.
If there was a shortcoming in the musical, it would have to be the rather spartan set, diminishing the homely spirit of the story. However, lighting was used to excellent effect, representing changing atmospheres and stages in the lives of the March sisters, alternating between Concord, Massachusetts, and New York, where Jo lives as an adult. Meanwhile, the show’s score was brought to life by the thoroughly impressive musical abilities of both performers on stage and musicians in the orchestra, expertly led by musical director Elle Hale.
In the first act, Jo states ‘I’ve got a fire in me, Aunt March’; by the end of the musical, she progresses to say of her sisters: ‘they were the fire within me’. The exceptional musical performances and acting ability on display conveyed this very sense of love, growth and change, so that members of the audience could each see themselves, in one way or another, represented in this stellar production of Little Women.
Photos by Louise Anderbjork