I absolutely loved this show!
Fantastically Great Women, a musical based on the picture book by Kate Pankhurst, aims to inspire children with stories about women who have claimed their place in history in a whole range of different fields.
The concept is simple but effective. Jade (last night played by the outstanding Eva-Marie Saffrey), a 10-year-old girl on a school trip to the museum, is tired of restrictions and of never being listened to, and, we later find, is having difficulty coming to terms with her parents’ imminent divorce. Hence, she has decided to hide away in an off-limits section of the museum, the soon to be opened ‘Gallery of Greatness’. Picking up a toy plane, she wishes she could have an adventure – which is the cue for Amelia Earhart to make an appearance, quickly joined by Sacagawea and Gertrude Ederle, who each helped change the world in their own way.
As the story progresses, more groups of women from history appear, each with their own sassy song and dance routine and fabulous costumes, teaching Jade and the audience more about the women and how they overcame the problems they faced and encouraging Jade to realise how she can act to overcome her own problems. The main cast of four women (Jade Kennedy, Renée Lamb, Frances Mayli McCann, and Christina Modestou) show a remarkable range of skills, tailoring their voices and movements to succinctly convey each character, while the more reflective moments in between when we learn more of Jade’s story, allow the young audience to catch their breath and let the information to sink in. And there is a lot of information, with 12 characters in total, though the programme is helpful here in giving extra information about each. Indeed, the show offers many opportunities for children and parents to explore not only the characters but also other the issues touched on such as equality, justice, and how each person in the world has the opportunity to make their mark in their own way.
The musical numbers are mostly fast paced with tight choreography, though there are times when the lyrics can be lost either due to the speed of the song or though being slightly overwhelmed by the live band, but this is a minor quibble. Toward the end, as the final character, Rosa Park, Renée Lamb’s touching rendition of ‘Lullaby Little Girl’ is a reminder not only of how far we have come but also of how far we still have to go.
Adapted for the stage by Chris Bush with music by Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo, it’s high energy production with an uplifting message and enough humour and action to keep both adults and children entertained. Not only did I love it, but the standing ovation the cast received at the end shows the rest of the audience did, too.
Playing until 2nd January 2022 https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/fantastically-great-women-who-changed-the-world
Reviewer: Johanna M Roberts
Reviewed: 9th December 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★
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