Liverpool Playhouse – until 2 January 2022
A short and sweet, feel-good family musical is doing the honours as the Playhouse’s Christmas offering – a venue that generally likes to present a not-so-festive alternative to pantoed-out audiences.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is a punchy, punky burst of feminist fun from the producers of Six and based on the picture book by Kate Pankhurst. It tells the story of Jade (Fayth Ifil on this occasion), a schoolgirl trying to run away on a school trip – but an out-of-bounds wing of a museum holds the key to adventure, as twelve female historical figures pay a visit and share their wisdom.
The roles are split between Jade Kennedy, Renee Lamb, Christina Modestou and (understudy) Shakira Simpson, with the fantastically great women of the title including some names you’d expect – Jane Austen, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks – and some you might not, like channel swimmer Gertrude Ederle and Native American explorer Sacagawea.
The songs and dance routines are energetic, modern bursts of pop designed to inspire and appeal to younger audiences – Emmeline Pankhurst gets to channel her inner Beyoncé in the anthemic Deeds Not Words. Songwriter Miranda Cooper has penned hits for the likes of Girls Aloud and The Sugababes, while choreographer Danielle ‘Rhine’s’ Lecointe previously worked on Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which coincidently we recently reviewed here.
The show’s positivity is infectious and its spotlight on the achievements of women, with a sincere aim to teach and inspire the next generation is all welcome. At an hour and 15 minutes in length, Fantastically Great Women… has no time to waste, and little time for subtlety. This can be annoying if you’re not in the mood to have what amounts to a bunch of self-help affirmations yelled at you for the duration – there’s more of a concert feel than musical theatre in that way – the reliance on which sometimes feels a bit of an overcompensation from a show that at times seems to be punching above its weight on the Playhouse stage.
Saying that, it is a really good introduction to theatre for younger audiences starting to outgrow children’s shows and explore their world. As family entertainment, its celebratory, party style is fun, a bit different, and gives a great message.
‘A punchy, punky burst of feminist fun’: @Vicky_Anderson on Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, from the producers of @sixthemusical. @FantasticallyGW is at @LivEveryPlay til 2 Jan. #theatrereviews