Theatre | Little Women | Ken Longworth

WOMEN'S BUSINESS: Little Women Assistant director Freya Meredith (seated) with Kaylia Roberson, one of two actors playing Jo March.
WOMEN'S BUSINESS: Little Women Assistant director Freya Meredith (seated) with Kaylia Roberson, one of two actors playing Jo March.

AARON Taylor was impressed by the musical Little Women when he was involved in its Australian premiere staging in Sydney in 2008, and made his directorial debut with a Maitland Gilbert and Sullivan Musical Society production of the show in 2012 that wowed audiences in Maitland, Cessnock and Hawks Nest.

So it’s not surprising that Taylor, now artistic director of Newcastle Young People’s Theatre, is mounting another production that involves performers from YPT and adult actors from Lindsay Street Players, an associated company established by people who developed their skills with the youth company.

Little Women, which plays a three-weekend season at YPT’s theatre in Lindsay Street, Hamilton, from February 2, is adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s popular novel of that name and its sequel, Good Wives.

The novel, published in 1867, was based on people and events in Alcott’s life, with the writer determined to get men to acknowledge that women were just as skilled as their male counterparts.

The central character, Jo March, one of four daughters in a middle-class family, is a writer whose novels are repeatedly turned down by publishers because she is a woman. And that had happened to Alcott.

Jo is living in New York while her mother, known as Marmee, and three sisters, Meg, Beth and Amy, are in the family home in Massachusetts. The story is set during the American Civil War, and the musical shows the relationships the March women have with relatives, neighbours, friends, business people and the men who come into their lives. It also includes colourfully amusing scenes from Jo’s novels.

The production has two teams of junior performers alternating in the roles of the young characters during the season, with the older figures the same in both casts. Jordan Warner and Kaylia Roberson are Jo, with Taylor Reece and Britanny Biles as practical oldest sister Meg, Jasmine Phipps and Martha Reece as sickly Beth, and Kirrilee Davies and Bronte Horswood as self-centred Amy.

Josh Hilton and Wesley McGrath alternate as a young male attracted to one of the girls. The diverse adult characters are played by Jenny Ingles (Marmee), Janelle Davies, Anthony Davies, Malcolm Young and Harold Phipps.

Two members of the production crew – assistant director Freya Meredith and musical director Amber Lewis – were respectively Beth and Meg in the Maitland staging.

Little Women has a mix of 7pm and 2pm Saturday shows from February 2 to 24, plus a Sunday, February 11 2pm high tea show, and a Friday, February 23, 7pm performance. Tickets: $17.70 to $23. Bookings: ypt.org.au.