By Jay Darcy
Based on the award-winning children’s picture book by Kate Pankhurtst, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is a brand-new, pop musical from the producers of Six.
The plot follows a young girl, left alone in a museum, descending on the ‘Hall of Greatness’, where she comes into contact with some of history’s (or herstory’s) most inspiring, badass women, from Frida Kahlo to Marie Curie – as well as lesser-known, yet equally as fascinating, figures.
Whilst the musical is no Six, it’s a great follow-up. It’s fun, poppy, light-hearted, and heart-warming – which is sometimes exactly what you want. The music, though not the most memorable, is aurally pleasing, and the story, though straightforward, is well-thought-out – with a fitting ending.
The musical stars Renée Lamb and Christina Modestou, who starred in the Original Arts Theatre Production (also known as the Off-West End Production) of Six – the first professional and second overall production of the hit musical. Both actresses can be heard on the musical’s soundtrack, and Lamb actually covered the role of Catherine of Aragon in the West End when there were no other actors available to step in. It sucks that neither actor got to see their roles through, so how great that they now get to star in this similar-themed musical? Even better – together!
I got my first taste of the Fantastically Great Women at West End Live last September, where they performed ‘A World of Colour’ and ‘Fantastically Great’. The former, which is sang by Frida Kahlo (Jade Kennedy), is, without a doubt, the musical’s best song. I’ve been waiting patiently to see them perform it again – this time, the real thing – and I was not disappointed. I was supposed to see the musical in Liverpool over Christmas, but, alas, covid, so it was wonderful to finally see it – especially that song.
The Mary song is another highlight; it’s the musical’s equivalent of Six‘s ‘House of Holbein’: fun, fierce and fabulous – and feminist AF.
I especially enjoyed the inclusion of Manchester’s own Emmeline Pankhurst – who Kate Pankhurst discovered she is related to whilst writing the book. Kirstie Skivington spoke with a broad Mancunian accent for the role, which was a nice touch.
Fantastically Great Women is, essentially, to Six what Pretty Little Liars was to Desperate Housewives: a weaker, lighter take on similar themes for a younger audience. I would have loved the show if I was a kid. The children in the audience seemed to be having a great time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself, and I might have even felt a little emotional at the end (when Jade was comforted by Rosa Parks and Anne Frank), but I recognise that the musical’s target audience is families.
The musical doesn’t really have any negatives. The only problem I had was the seating. Whoever designed the Lowry’s Quays Theatre needs a talking to, for if you’re sat in the side seats of the tiers, you can’t see half the stage without leaning forward, doing your back in in the process. This ruined the view of the people sat behind us; they had to stand up to see the stage. What on earth were the designers thinking?
Now, the Lowry would not usually put press in seats with a restricted view, but I could not make the press night – for it clashed with the press night for Beauty and the Beast – so I asked to see the show the next day. The show was near-sold-out; there were only bad seats left! Still, I enjoyed the show, even though my neck and back were a little sore afterwards. I definitely recommend the musical – I just advice you not to sit at the side of the tiers!
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World tours the UK until July.
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