The Hope Mill Theatre is still relatively new but their success is astounding, with productions transferring to London, it’s a theatrical hub up in the North. This Christmas they are bringing the heartwarming musical Little Women to their stage, the classic story of the four March sisters is brought to life through a stunning score.
Amie Giselle-Ward is taking on the role of feisty feminist Jo March. Set during the Civil War, Jo is determined to be a writer and despite many knock-backs she fights to pursue her dream against all odds. With Jo’s father off at war, Jo steps into the role of being the father figure and looking after her sisters. “Jo March is such a modern girl, I really feel like all her plot and all of her character could be written today,” Amie told me. “I am very much a tomboy and I am very much live by my own rules in normal life so I am finding it really easy to relate to Jo, she is just so headstrong and knows exactly what she wants to do.”
The books spans a huge amount of time which is condensed into the musical, and a lot happens in the four sisters’ lives. “Every scene I have with Jo, she brings a new emotion and a new feistiness,” Amie said. “I‘d read the books when I was tiny and I’d always aspired to be someone like her.” Using the book and Louisa May Alcott’s language, Amie has delved deeply into Jo and her sisters’ lives in order to really get to grips with the characters.
Amie expressed how the intensity of the rehearsals has really brought them together as a cast. “We spend all day every day with each other and obviously the family aspect is so important to tell the story right, and we all get on as if we are sisters,” she said. “It has just been incredible to form a real true bond with everyone in the cast which I think really comes across on stage.”
It is the warmth of the family that is the true heart of this musical, however, performing such a poignant show in the Hope Mill Theatre is what is going to make it extra special. “I like intimate spaces when I’m acting and I am very excited about this space, I think it adds a whole extra element to the family celebration and I think it will be really special for the audience,” she said.
Jo March is a tough musical theatre role to play, she rarely leaves the stage and has a multitude of physically and vocally demanding numbers. Amie explained how strenuous it is, but she actually finds it easier being on stage and in character for the duration of the show. “It helps because I am literally living the journey instead of coming off stage, mentally preparing for the next scene, and coming back on,” she said. “It helps to bring a raw emotion to it and an intimate personal relationship to the character.”
It’s the European premiere of the musical, and Amie explained that they are doing it completely different to the original Broadway production, as they have created a production that lends itself to the Hope Mill Theatre. “We have completely stripped this show down to find the truth in it and we really listen to the score and libretto to what they are saying,” she said.
“The show is so centered around female empowerment, female relationships and a celebration of female energy.”
Explaining how it ties into what is going on in the media at the moment with the influx of sexual allegations, Amie expressed how the cast and creatives thought it was really important to strip it down and touch people. “The literature itself was so important for me growing up, and for literature now and for young women,” she said.
Jo March is the ultimate feminist, the story is about how she fights against the odds to achieve her dream. Whilst of course there are a few romantic encounters along the way, she always stays true to herself. “This is why the show needs to be done truthfully, as opposed to just a song and dance,” Amie said. “Jo is such an exaggerated character, she is so eccentric and brash, but the big brash person isn’t always who she is. Like Jo, most women out there are intimidated by the world, especially by men and the hierarchy we have.
What she wants to do in that time, to lead her own life and reject her engagement, are shocking things. But it is so important that it is exposed in the way it is in the show, as it makes it so much more poignant.”
The most well-known song from Little Women is of course the huge belter that is Astonishing that is famously sung by Sutton Foster. Amie explained how their version is so different; “Astonishing can so easily be taken as a showstopper, just a song everyone can sing really well as opposed to it being the point in the show where she completely changes her character and cements exactly what she wants to do with life,” she said.
Little Women is a powerful, important, moving and an incredibly moving musical about these four March sisters. “The core message of the musical is girl power,” Amie told me. “What other show is there that has a very strong female cast? We have three boys in the show, when else is that going to happen in musical theatre?”
The message is to preach feminism to the young generation, not particularly focusing on women, as I think the male population need to come and watch this show and really listen to the message. Especially in times now, as I really feel like the show could have been written today as it is just as applicable, just as poignant and so important that female energy and relationships are celebrated.”
Little Women opens at the Hope Mill Theatre on the 9th of November until the 9th of December, tickets and information can be found here.