Bringing to life the March family, North Shore Theatre Company’s first musical following its name change (from Chatswood Musical Society) is the sweet, heartfelt and charming Little Women.
Based on Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War classic novel, the central themes of family bonds, strong female empowerment, staying true to one’s self, friendship and love remain just as relevant today as they were in 1869.
Tomboy aspiring writer who dreams of a bigger life, Jo March, is exceptionally played by Kathy Xenos. As the pivotal character and storyteller, Xenos carries the weight of this show on her shoulders, as she is rarely off stage and has several large songs. It was a delight to watch Xenos throughout the show, from the comedic to the serious moments to the big songs ‘Astonishing’ and ‘The Fire Within Me’. Xenos is certainly a performer to watch for the future and is perfectly cast in this role.
Rounding out the March family is eldest sister and reluctant romantic Meg (Georgina Burley), kind-hearted and content Beth (Ally Foy), the youngest sister who can’t wait to grow up, Amy (Hannah Paul), and the matriarch doing her best to raise four girls without her husband, Marmee (Jessica Kelly). Even on opening night, the March family were a tight unit and easily believable as a group of women who suffered from all the ups and downs of family life.
Paul deftly played the growth of Amy from the tantrum-throwing teenager to grown woman and was particularly amusing during her comedic flashes. Foy’s standout number as Beth is the beautiful duet with Jo, ‘Some Things Are Meant to Be’.
It wouldn’t be Little Women without the men who are part of the March world. From best friend to Jo, turned husband to Amy, Isaac Downey was aptly quirky and charming as Theodore Laurence III (aka Laurie). Scott Dias portrays Professor Bhaer, Jo’s foil and eventual husband. Dias needs to watch his German accent, as I spent most of the time thinking he was playing Bhaer as French.
The cast is rounded out by Kristian Kok as Aunt March, the wealthiest of the March family who has a soft heart under her gruff exterior; neighbour and grandfather to Laurie, Mr Laurence (Dom Augiemeri); and John Brooke (Joey Sheehan).
The Little Women stage set at the charming Independent Theatre in North Sydney was simple but effective, with lounge settings in New York and Concord and the all important attic, where the March girls experience pivotal moments in their life. There isn’t a lot of choreography, but Kathryn Harradine ensures it stays authentic to the era. I was honestly surprised to realise there was an orchestra playing, as at times it sounded more like a pre-recorded soundtrack. As with the previous show I reviewed at this theatre, Hot Mikado, the microphone sound levels needed adjustment, as at times I strained to hear the dialogue.
Director Jon Emmett is to be commended for the quality of this production, owing largely to the strength of Xenos and the obvious extensive rehearsal that has gone into this production. There were the usual opening night hiccups with prop errors, but the cast handled them like pros and didn’t miss a beat.
This is definitely a show the entire family can go see and enjoy during these school holidays.
LITTLE WOMEN – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 28 April, 2018
Venue: The Independent, 269 Miller Street, North Sydney, NSW
Tickets can be purchased online here