Review: LITTLE WOMEN at the Stratford Festival Brings a Classic Story to the Next Generation

Allison Edwards-Crewe Shines as Jo March in Jordi Mand's new Adaptation

By: Jul. 13, 2022
Review: LITTLE WOMEN at the Stratford Festival Brings a Classic Story to the Next Generation

A beloved story has been adapted for the stage and for the whole family at the Stratford Festival this season and it had its world premiere last Thursday night. Playwright Jordi Mand's LITTLE WOMEN--based on the novels Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott is being brought to life on stage by Director Esther Jun and a fabulous company. Though this is part of the Schulich Children's Plays programming, there is a kind of combined accessibility and maturity to this production that will allow it to be enjoyed by everyone.

LITTLE WOMEN tells the story of the March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, with a focus on the outspoken and imaginative Jo (Allison Edwards-Crewe) who is our narrator for this adaptation. Set during the civil war, the teenage sisters and their Marmee (Irene Poole) spend their days entertaining themselves with music, art, and literature, doing good where they can, and anxiously awaiting word from their father who is away at war. Jo is an aspiring writer who enlists her sisters and beloved neighbour Theodore 'Laurie' Laurence (Richard Lam) to act out the stories she writes for family and friends. Her dream is to one day be a published author and she frequently finds herself confronted with social pressures expectations of what it means to be a woman that don't line up with her own personal aspirations.

Although the play is set in the 1860's, it opens in modern times with Jo on stage. One by one, players and props emerge from a trunk and the stage is set for a story to unfold in front of us. The Set Design by Teresa Przybylski has a whimsical and fun feel to it. The folding and changing backgrounds look almost like a pop-out children's book.

Director Esther Jun speaks in her Director's Notes of the importance of adapting this period piece in a way that audiences can see themselves in the characters. The diversity on stage in this play is exciting and important.

Every member of this company makes a lasting impression. It is easy to root for Edwards-Crewe as Jo. Her Jo is passionate and self-assured from beginning to end, but the subtle nuance with which Jo's youthful enthusiasm evolves into a more mature sense of resolve and determination is quite masterful. Lindsay Wu is charming (in the annoying little sister sort of way) as the young, immature, outgoing Amy; Brefny Caribou is loveable as the pure and innocent Beth; Veronica Hortiguela plays the sweet and dutiful Meg with such earnestness that the audience beams with joy for her when she accepts the wedding proposal of the equally delightful John Brooke (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff).

The wise words of Irene Poole's Marmee resonate on deeper levels than ever as she speaks of the importance of doing the good and decent thing even when those around you choose not to. In fact, there are many moments during this play where the words spoken struck this writer on such an emotional and left me teary-eyed. It was not something I thought much about going into the show, but in retrospect, a play like LITTLE WOMEN is the perfect show to see amidst the current challenges in the world around us. It reminds us to look inward and to always strive to do good, and it shows us that there are other people who try to do this too.

This production does well to balance the darker, sadder, elements of the story with its overall feel-good inspirational message in a way that does make it accessible for the younger audiences it is in part geared towards.

The stories that last are the ones that have nuggets of messaging that can resonate with any reader at any time. LITTLE WOMEN is one of those stories, and this new adaptation not only allows it resonate to even more strongly with today's generation, but also presents it in a play the whole family will enjoy.

LITTLE WOMEN continues at the Avon Theatre until October 29th.

Photo Credit: David Hou


Review: SIX THE MUSICAL at Royal Alexandra Theatre Photo
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SIX THE MUSICAL Extends in Toronto Until February 11, 2024 Photo
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COC and NAC Commission EMPIRE OF WILD From Ian Cusson and Cherie Dimaline Photo
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