The timeless classic, Little Women, has marched into the Blue Room Theatre. This brand new, exciting adaption of the beloved novel is a new production collaboration between Perth based performance-makers Melanie Julien-Martial (Two Canaries; Cephalopod; Final Form; The Jellyman) and Sally Davies (Ugly Virgins; A Region Where Nobody Goes; Tunes From The Roadside). Sally Davies is writer and Co-Director on Little Women and Melanie Julien-Martial is Co-Producer and Co-Director.
Louisa May Alcott is beloved by many readers for her depiction of American girlhood in Little Women
"Little Women" is a treasured American coming-of-age story that was written by American novelist Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888). The book was published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869 and follows the adventures of the four March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy - as they grow up. Little Women was a commercial and critical success. It was loosely based on the author's own life and her experiences growing up with sisters.
Little Women has been translated into multiple languages and has been adapted multiple times into stage, film, television, musicals, opera, audio dramas and literary re-tellings. A 2019 film adaptation of the novel was written and directed by Greta Gerwig and starred Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, Laura Dern as Marmee, Meryl Streep as Aunt March, Eliza Scanlen as Beth and Timothee Chalamet as Laurie. The film received critical praise and scored six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
In January 2020, Kaitlyn Greenidge of the New York Times published an article called"The Bearable Whiteness of Little Women" that examined Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women from the perspective of a woman of colour. The article highlighted how classic novels like Little Women often had a white, hetero-normative viewpoint, which can make queer people and people-of-colour feel excluded. Greenidge asked the question, as a black girl reading American classic literature, why should she be expected to relate to white protagonists? Why couldn't Jo March be black?
Mel & Sal were inspired to adapt Little Women for the stage after reading Greenidge's New York Times article that criticized Little Women for its white privilege and lack of diversity. Mel & Sal wanted to produce a version of Little Women that placed a diverse and queer lens onto the characters and featured a non-white, female cast.
The March sisters questioned social expectations of women and rebelled against traditional womanhood.
Little Women features an amazing cast. Cezera Critti-Schnaars plays the main protagonist, the spirited and stubborn Jo March, who struggles with her temper and dreams of becoming a professional writer. Critti-Schnaars is an up and coming First Nations performer of Nyoongar and Greek heritage who has had a passion for the theatre since she was a kid. She is a WAAPA graduate and has worked for the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and the Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company. In June 2021, she was awarded Best Newcomer and Best Supporting Actress at the Performing Arts WA Awards (PAWA), for her performance in Hecate (2020), a local production from Yirra Yaakin.
Cezera Critti-Schnaars is joined on stage with Jess Nyanda Moyle, a performer and Theatre Arts graduate from Curtin University, who plays the oldest sister Meg March. Ramiah Alcantara, a performer and a university graduate in Theatre and Drama and Film production, plays the role of Laurie. Mani Mae Gomes, a performer with experience in dance and theatre, is the kind-hearted Beth March. And Amber Kitney, a creative producer with an interest in arts education, plays the role of Amy, the youngest March sister.
The show also features the talents of Catherine O'Donoghue as the stage manager, Rhiannon Petersen as the lighting designer, Joe Paradise Lui as the sound designer and Eilish Campbell as the set and costume designer.
Little Women introduced readers to the idea of social change and appealed to women from different classes and diverse backgrounds
Little Women was a really good show. The first thing that stood out to me was the set and costume designs. There was so much detail. The set pieces looked like actual pieces of old furniture; there was a writing desk with papers on it, an old bed, lamps, a couch, flowers in a vase, books in a cabinet, an artbook filled with hand-drawn sketches, and a beautiful China doll. It was the most detailed theatre stage I've ever seen. I was so impressed. I felt transported back in time. The costumes were some of the best that I've ever seen. The cast were all in traditional period pieces like hoop skirts and bonnets. Eilish Campbell did a phenomenal job and should be commended.
One thing that I didn't like about the show was some of the music choices. Some of the music felt a little bit too modern and out of place. Other times, the music was beautiful, and full of emotion. It was an odd mixture of good and bad music.
I thought that Sally Davis did a really great job adapting Little Women to the stage and reworking Louisa May Alcott's book to be more modern, diverse and queer. In an interesting twist, Laurie's character was gender-swapped. In the original novel, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence is "the boy next door" who shows a romantic interest in Jo March. In the show, Laurie is rewritten to be an attractive girl living next door, who falls in love with Jo. Jo rejects Laurie's advances, because she doesn't want to marry anyone. She would rather become a spinster than give up her freedom for anyone else. Cezera Critti-Schnaars was so passionate as Jo. She really captured her fiery, feminist spirit. It was a wonderful performance.
Little Women is currently showing at the Blue Room Theatre until Saturday, 27 November 2021. The show runs for 90 minutes and is suitable for people 10 years and older. Ticket prices are $30.00 for adults and $25.00 for concession. Information about session times is available on the Blue Room Theatre's website. To secure tickets for Little Women, click here.
* Marisa Quinn-Haisu was invited as a guest
Pictured: Cezera Critti-Schnaars, Jess Nyanda Moyle, Ramiah Alcantara, Amber Kitney, and Mani Mae Gomes. Photos: Stephanie Senior Photography