Music: Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo
Lyrics: Chris Bush and Miranda Cooper
Writer: Kate Pankhurst
Adaptor: Chris Bush
Director: Amy Hodge
On a school field trip to a museum, a young girl named Jade finds herself lost. She fears she’s been abandoned, forgotten by her teachers and classmates, and so she decides to explore the strictly off-limits Gallery of Greatness (despite the warnings of a rather pertinent loudspeaker announcer). Once inside the Gallery, she is welcomed by a series of famous women from throughout history. Each of them has a story to tell and a bit of advice for young Jade. With memorable songs, colourful costumes, and excellent performances, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is a heart-warming, exciting new musical for all audiences.
Jade is facing emotional turmoil because she feels unseen by those around her, and she turns to the women of the Gallery of Greatness to help her find a way through this challenge. The first three women she meets are Amelia Earhart (in a stunning bright green pilot’s suit with knee-high, neon green Converse to match), Gertrude Ederle, and Sacagawea. They offer up their own pathways to success – in the air, on land, or in the sea – and although they leave Jade feeling enthusiastic and driven, they also leave her feeling like the only way to make a change in her life is by hyper achieving an Olympic medal, bestselling book, and trip into space all before she turns 12. As the show goes on, Jade learns to appreciate the extraordinary-ness of the women in her life and understands that she can make change in the world simply by following her passion.
This show has clearly been lovingly crafted. The design elements are flashy and exciting, from the brightly colour-coordinated costumes to the catchy soundtrack, to the vibrant LED lighting which frames and washes the stage in technicolour. The music is contemporary, beautiful, and very catchy. Even the band, featured prominently onstage, is brightly coloured and exudes enthusiasm. There is a beautiful moment during Emmeline Pankhurst’s song, Deeds Not Words, where each band member can be seen smiling due to the sheer enjoyment of the song. Each component of this musical comes together and is performed with utter joy and commitment.
The four actors who play each of the famous women (Jennifer Caldwell, Elena Breschi, Chlöe Hart, and Leah Vassell) are outstanding. Every second they’re onstage is lively, moving, and heartfelt, supported by incredible voices and some fantastic dance moves. Musical Director, Audra Cramer, and her musicians Bronwen Chan and Isis Dunthorne deserve recognition as well – not just for their moments of joy shared with the audience, but for their great playing and ability to jump in on the action. This company puts on a truly fantastic show, and despite a few wobbles (on the night of this reviewer’s attendance), performed brilliantly.
Jade’s story is empowering in a new way – she is encouraged to follow her passion and to reflect on the change enacted by the women directly around her every day while being inspired by those women who came before her. In this way, the audience is encouraged to be inspired too. One might even be inspired by the number of women featured in the programme of this show. Although the finale may not be the party number one might expect, it wraps the production up nicely and serves as a good reminder to us all to see the women in our lives as what they are – fantastically great.
This musical is on its way to becoming a new classic and is a wholeheartedly worthwhile watch for everyone.
Runs until 11 February and on tour