Theatre review 

Big-hearted charm at BGT's Little Women

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by Erik Abbott

Director Tony Kingston and adaptor June Lowery have said that they wanted to present Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel Little Women on stage in part to provide performance opportunities for some of the many talented young actors and actresses Kingston encounters in his work teaching drama in Luxembourg area schools.

With the BGT’s version of Little Women, which opened Thursday, October 2, for four performances at the Mierscher Kulturhaus (five more follow at the Abbaye de Neumünster—now re-christened Neimënster—from November 25 – 29), that goal has been met in a production of big-hearted charm.

The cast of this mammoth undertaking (actually an adaptation of two novels, Little Women and Good Wives, which are usually published together) numbers somewhere around two dozen, although doubling almost makes it seem the entire population of the play’s nineteenth-century world is represented.

Youthful exuberance and energy

The first half introduces the March family, Marmee (Mrs March—Jessica Whiteley), and her four daughters, Meg (Cindy Bloes), Jo (Hayley Dawson), Beth (Gina Millington), and Amy (Elena de Kort), preparing for Christmas, their father (Ivo Mihajlovi) away serving as a Chaplain for the Union army in the American Civil War.

The Marches are poor, but generous and kind and loving. The production focuses on these overarching themes from the novel(s) as we watch the various March girls—the ‘little women’—grow, their adversities and triumphs always underscored by deep compassion for everyone and fierce love for one another.

The actresses who play the younger Marches are all very good, bringing youthful exuberance and energy to the proceedings. Dawson, in particular, as the protagonist Jo, stands out. Her Jo is headstrong and impulsive, but she never wavers in her support and devotion to her family. Dawson navigates Jo’s mercurial personality with assurance, charm and humour.

a warm and funny and often moving homage to familial love

Little women to grown women

The second half moves forward to the romances and grown-up challenges of the adult March women, with Jacqueline Milne as Jo, Ruth Gillen as Amy, Lindsay Wegleitner as Meg, and Karolina Zych as Beth.

Again, the performances are all solid. Milne shoulders the heaviest load and is more than up to the task—as local audiences will know from past performances. We see the adult Jo, still impetuous and spirited, but with a deepened sense of responsibility even as she doggedly pursues her dreams. It is a fine, nuanced, touching performance.

Along with Whiteley, the central cast is ably supported by BGT veterans Stephen Anderson (Mr Laurence) and Bjørn Clasen (Professor Bhaer), as well as Elizabeth Adams (quite funny as cantankerous Aunt March), Rasmus Eriksson (a charming young Laurie), Martin Campion (the adult Laurie), and Seanán Ó Coistín (Mr Brooke). Sebastian Adams is a real treat in several cameos.

Kingston’s workmanlike staging propels the story efficiently, although transitions from one scene and location to another often slow the momentum. This seems likely to be an opening night issue that will smooth out over the run. (Karl Pierce designed the multiple-location set).

The live singing between scenes is quite effective in places and I found myself wishing for even more of the nineteenth century folk- and hymn-soundtrack.      

All in all, the production is faithful to the sentimental charm of Alcott’s work, a warm and funny and often moving homage to familial love. And it is a fine showcase for several young (and less young) performers.

When and where

Little Women continues at the Mierscher Kulturhaus Friday and Saturday, 03 – 04 October at 20.00 and Sunday, 05 October at 17.00.

For tickets: phone 26 32 43-1 or visit www.luxembourgticket.lu

It plays Tuesday – Saturday, November 25 – 29, at Neimënster (Abbaye de Neumünster), at 8pm each night.

For further information, visit www.the-bgt.luwww.kulturhaus.lu or www.neimenster.lu

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