Young cast impresses in rarely-seen musical

Members of the cast of Clifton Academy's production of Little Women
Members of the cast of Clifton Academy's production of Little Women

REVIEW: Little Women, Lowther Pavilion

Mention Little Woman to most people and they will recognise it as a classic book but not realise there has ever been a musical adaptation.

A four-month run on Broadway a decade ago followed by a couple of further productions in the US and Australia, means this is an unfamiliar show to most – so all credit to director Joe Appleton for an adventurous and refreshing choice which really brought the best out of Clifton Academy’s young cast, particularly the leading female members.

The story of four sisters in Massachusetts during the American Civil War is touching, inspiring and uplifting and all aspects of the story are splendidly portrayed in a well-paced production packed with great songs by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein.

Erin Bannister, just 13, is in wonderful voice in the lead role of Jo, and she and her fellow cast members all belie their tender years with thoroughly entertaining performances expertly helmed by a director with an award from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association fresh under his belt from last year’s Clifton production.

Millie Quine, Alex Bury and Megan Hill all charm as the other three March sisters, Erin James impresses as Marmee, Archie Follett is a delightfully chirpy Laurie, with Archie’s younger brother Henry memorably playing his grandad!

Nick Godfrey, 11, is a convincing Professor Bhaer, while every other member of the 35-strong cast displays the enthusiasm and smooth delivery which has become a hallmark of St Annes-based Clifton’s annual productions.

Sarah Cosgrove’s choreography impresses, particularly on the first act numbers Delighted and Five Forever, when practically the entire company pack the stage.

It all adds up to excellent entertainment. How sad that Little Women never got a West End run – to paraphrase Jo, it’s a discovery of which Christopher Columbus would have been proud.

TONY DURKIN