The University of Manchester Musical Theatre Society’s latest performance Little Women, with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, played at the Partisan Collective in Manchester’s city centre. Directed by Annie Williams, the show features countless beautiful songs and tremendous performances from each member of the cast as the lives of the four March sisters; Jo (Freya Parry), Beth (Helena Stanway), Meg (Jess Adams) and Amy (Carol-Ann McConnellogue), unravel before the audience.
Despite being performed in the basement of the venue, the creative team did a lovely job of giving the set a homely feel. The use of a sofa, steps, a desk and a window with curtains showed how the team were dedicated to putting their all into bringing the March house to life. Furthermore, Williams did tremendously well in displaying the relationships between the characters and making use of the whole stage throughout the show.
Each member of the cast was perfectly selected. They all gave excellent performances and every vocal performance was strong. I must give a special recognition to Freya Parry for her phenomenal work as Jo. I was truly mesmerised by her solo numbers, her acting ability, and her outstanding voice was breathtaking. Her performance of ‘Astonishing’ concluded the first act, and the whole audience were left wide eyed and with chills. You could have convinced me I was watching a Broadway performance.
Additionally, Morgan Meredith gave a beautiful performance as the March Mother: Marmee. She delivered the role with warmth and comedy and despite being a similar age to the girls playing her daughters, she gave a convincing performance as a mother, missing her husband, who fights in the civil war, whilst wanting everything for her daughters. Her solos, ‘Here Alone’, and ‘Days of Plenty’ were breathtakingly outstanding, having the majority of the audience in tears.
Furthermore, Stanway gave a beautiful performance as the sweet hearted Beth, and had the whole audience fall in love with her skill. Adams gave a marvellous performance, showcasing her stunning voice and delivering humour and grace. McConnellogue gave a convincing performance as the youngest sister, full of life and trying to live up to her older sisters.
Matthew Quinn (Laurie), George Haviland (Professor Bhaer), Tom Bass (John), James Ward-Mallinson (Mr Laurence), Anna Toogood (Aunt March), and Clarisse Martin (Mrs Kirk), all gave funny and endearing performances in their respected roles to round up a talented cast.
Additionally, the choreography of the show was well constructed, particularly in ‘Could You?’ and ‘Five Forever’, but also in the subtle movements such as the synchronised stepping and use of an umbrella in ‘Small Umbrella in the Rain’.
If I have to give a criticism I would comment the tech could have been tighter. A few of the light transitions were not smooth and there were a few problems with sound cues; Beth goes to play the piano and a pianist is supposed to play in sync with her, however they missed their cue. Nevertheless, the team’s ability to improvise around this was splendid.
The musical gave us countless beautiful songs, romance, heartache, pain and happiness, exploring all the emotions that can be felt in two and a half hours. A real well done to the whole team!