Originally a children’s book by suffragette descendent Kate Pankhurst, this one-of-a-kind musical left me smiling the whole way through. Great for audiences of all ages, it is girl band meets history for an all-singing tribute to the women that changed the world.
The scene is set at the beginning of the show with classic empowering anthems such as Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT, shortly followed by multiple on-stage farts that leave the young star gagging. It follows Jade, who on the 11/11/21 was played by Éva-Marie Saffrey, discovering the many stories of the women we owe our modern ways to. With the opening number exploring the many constraints young people face today, Saffrey’s vocals were controlled and mesmerizing.
The cast brought to life the historical figures with accents, jokes and personality. Jade Kennedy, Frances Mayli McCann, Christina Modestou and Renée Lamb demonstrated their chemistry and skill by being the backbones of the show. Through their in-snyc dance moves and impressive vocals, they were each able to embody three different historical women. I particularly loved the representation of Frida Kahlo by Kennedy, encouraging the audience to paint their own stories even when faced with difficult situations.
Between musical numbers it felt a little slow at times as we waited for the next set of Fantastically Great Women to make their appearance, instead detailing the struggles that young Jade was facing. However, as a family-friendly show, I’m sure younger audiences will have still been captivated by this, as well as the presence of Bearoncé the teddy bear.
The set was simplistic but used in its entirety to transport the audience through the lives of these women. With the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst, Jane Austen, Rosa Parks and Frida Kahlo, along with many other names that I sadly had not heard of until tonight, the cast used the limited number of set pieces to their advantage during the performance, with humour that met the needs of both older and younger audience members.
The variety of cleverly-crafted songs not only gave us sass but also their stories, echoing Kenny Wax’s musical SIX. While I’m still not sure that Anne Frank was ready to be in a musical, much less a lullaby sung to her, I appreciate that they didn’t skim over the harsh realities of history, instead, demonstrating the many barriers that each of the women faced in their time.
A touch that I personally found heart-warming was the use of sign language in some of the song’s choreography, not just as a nod to former athlete Gertrude Ederle who taught deaf children to swim, but also as a means of inclusion. For a show all about uniting people from varying walks of life, it certainly pushed that message home even further.
This fun, empowering musical is great for all ages, continuing the legacy of many amazing women. It left the audience smiling, laughing, and one young viewer dancing in the aisle.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World will be running at MAST until Saturday 20th November 2021. Tickets are available here.