MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Writer: Kate Pankhurst

Adaptor: Chris Bush

Music: Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo

Lyrics: Chris Bush and Miranda Cooper

Director: Amy Hodge

“So you weren’t a superhero, you were just a little girl?”

“She was both.”

Jade (Kudzai Mangombe) has got herself lost. She is meant to be on a school trip to the museum, but since she is so helpful and well behaved and always does what she is told she has been overlooked. Again. She just wishes someone would notice her. After an altercation with a loud speaker, she decides to not be a Well Behaved Woman. She sneaks into a closed women’s history exhibit and the adventure begins, as the Women come to life and guide the young protagonist through relatable life problems for an 11 year old, encouraging her on her way to becoming Fantastically Great herself. The show is a whirlwind tour through the who’s who of titular Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, set to a pop influenced soundtrack guaranteed to get the audience bopping along and maybe even learning a thing or too with Jade along the way.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is a fantastic introduction to history for all ages. Although clearly aimed at children (thanks to being based on a picture book of the same name), the clever script and songs by Chris Bush and Miranda Cooper never talks down to its audience, rendering it thoroughly enjoyable even for the older, possibly even child free, members. The cast are without exception amazing, switching character, costumes, accents and even the odd oversized moustache with ease and a good mix of comedy and pathos. Between the six of them, and a live band, they bring to life 12 historical figures, updated for the modern world but still retaining their original flare. It inspires the young to start their journey into feminism, as well as inspiring the older into reinvestigation.

This basic introduction can land itself a few criticisms however. While racial inequality is touched on with Rosa Parks, there is a sad lack of intersectionality within the plot. For example, a fantastic song about Emmeline Pankhurst (with amazing costume by Joanna Scotcher) makes mention of how long it took to get votes for women, while never mentioning how much longer it took for women of colour. While they briefly mention record-breaking swimmer Gertrude Ederle had hearing issues and opened a school for the deaf, there’s no discussion of say Helen Keller or specific disability activism. LGBTQ+ history is never even mentioned, despite Frida Kahlo being right there. This is not to undermine the show and the important message it is promoting, but it is to be hoped the education doesn’t end when the show does for the newly inspired fans.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is definitely the show to see if you are a bit of a history buff (especially if you enjoyed Six – the feel is very similar and it is clear producer Kenny Wax had a hand in both) or if you’re a parent looking for an experience to share with your child, regardless of their (or your) gender. If you are bringing very young children however, just note that is an 85 minute one act show and prepare accordingly. And then be prepared to answer a million questions about other Fantastically Great Women – or head to the museum yourself to find out more!

Runs until 4th June 2022, before continuing on tour.

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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