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Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – Little Women

One is reminded of Les Misérables whenever a place name and the year in question are displayed for all and sundry to see. It’s altogether subtle and yet altogether not, and the same could be said for the show as a whole. As this show would have it, everyone spoke very quaintly in 1863, and if anything, had become even more prim and proper, as the impressionable sisters in the March family are influenced by society and the people they meet.

Little WomenLittle Women at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, staged by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Image credit © Robert McFadzean-RCS.
Little Women at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, staged by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Image credit © Robert McFadzean-RCS.

It is pleasing to see such an international cast on stage, although there is a trade-off in that the characters’ accents are inconsistent, particularly between sisters of the same household. Someone else, who shall remain nameless, speaks so quickly at times in an attempt to portray an effervescently bitter and no-nonsense snob that they are quite incomprehensible. But the sheer emotion in the voice comes across well, and the character’s intention and attitude comes across strongly even though some of what I can only assume are putdowns, and perhaps rather amusing ones at that, are lost.

This student production scores well on lots of other fronts. One perennial issue with student shows is that the actors are invariably of a similar age profile, which makes Jared Alexander’s Mr Laurence remarkably authoritative and convincing as the grandfather to Laurie (Adam Makepeace), even when the two appear together. Thankfully, the ‘older’ man doesn’t attempt a silly walk that no pensioner would actually do. The active imagination of Jo March (Lydia DeLuca) is dramatized in melodramatic scenes that at least partly act as escapism from the harsh realities of family life during the American Civil War.

A wooden bridge structure has multiple uses in this production (just as well, then, that it never moves), and as far as the narrative goes, the pacing is all over the place – Meg’s (Lucia Cerván) story moves ridiculously quickly from meeting John Brooke (Angus Bhattacharya) to having his babies, while Professor Bhaer’s (John Gurdian) courting of Jo goes on for so long it’s a relief when the sisters’ mother (a likeable Emily Tracey) makes an appearance and promptly proceeds to welcome them both inside.

The band sound splendid and spectacularly fail to overwhelm the actors at any point, resulting in a near-perfect listening experience. A standout performance from DeLuca was, vocally speaking, comparable to that of Sutton Foster on the Broadway cast recording of the show – she was utterly delightful. Astonishing, even, to quote the title of one of the musical numbers. Elsewhere, elements of the storyline involving scrimping and saving and selling things off to ensure priority needs are met are highly topical at a time of financial hardship. But either way, this was a pleasant yet powerful performance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, one of the world’s top performing arts institutions, presents the full length musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women.

In the midst of the American Civil War, four sisters are trying to forge their own paths. There’s Meg, ‘the beautiful one’, uncertain of her way but determined to make her own choices; aspiring writer Jo, restless, rebellious and determined to do something; ‘astonishing’ wise and gentle Beth, selflessly supporting her sisters through everything; and baby of the family Amy, used to getting her own way.

Follow their adventures, full of laughter, loss and discovery, in this Tony Award-nominated musical, as their lives intertwine and diverge, and their plans and dreams for the future change more than any of them could expect. As Jo discovers, you can’t choose your family – but you can write about them.

CAST
Jo March LYDIA DELUCA
Professor Bhaer JOHN GURDIAN
Amy March LORNA BAXTER
Meg March LUCIA CERVÁN
Beth March KRISTINA FEBSE
Marmee March EMILY TRACEY
Mr Laurence JARED ALEXANDER
Laurie Laurence ADAM MAKEPEACE
Aunt March PIEN VAN MEEGAN
Mr John Brooke ANGUS BHATTACHARYA
Mrs Kirk PIEN VAN MEEGAN
Clarissa FEIFEI XIANG
Braxton JARED ALEXANDER
Rodrigo ADAM MAKEPEACE
Knight ANGUS BHATTACHARYA
Rodrigo 2 KRISTINA FEHSE

BAND
Conductor JASON BELANGER/ONG CHENG KAN
Keys 1 JASON BELANDER/ONG CHENG KAN
Keys 2 EOIN CORCORAN/GREGORY P. FRANZ
Bass (acoustic) BRODIE JARVIE/CALLUM CRONIN
Percussion DAVID KERR
Reed (Clarinet and Flute) JACK HALFORTY
Trombone JOSHUA PARKHILL
Trumpet MARCUS SHANKS and MURRAY MACFARLANE
Violin DOMINIKA RESINSKA

CREATIVE TEAM
Director KEN ALEXANDER
Set and Costume Designer CLAIRE HALLERAN
Lighting Designer ROBBIE BUTLER
Sound Designer GERRIE VICTOR
Musical Supervisor DAVID HIGHAM
Choreographer RUTH MILLS
Vocal Support GORDON ADAMS
Voice Support BILL WRIGHT
Accent and Dialect Support RACHEL NICHOLSON

Little Women
Assembly Rooms, Music Room, until 27 August (odd days), 10:00am to 12:20pm

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