I suspect I’m not the precise target audience for Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World: a self-identified feminist, sure, but one sitting here tonight among an audience made up largely of pre-teen girls. Yet historical feminism told through musical pop songs can be for anybody.
This new musical is by the producer of hit musical Six and based on a book by Kate Pankhurst – a descendant of prominent Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who features in the book and musical. Set in an under-construction exhibition of a museum, schoolgirl Jade gets separated from her group and meets some of the fantastically great women.
The promotional material leans on the Six connections, with a review quoted on the posters calling Fantastically Great Women its “little sister”, and invites comparisons further by also featuring a megamix at the show’s end. It’s not as good as Six – that musical is a modern phenomenon – but try and watch FGW without thinking of those other historical women and this musical has a chance.
Some of the songs land better than others. The Frida Kahlo-themed World Of Colour, sung by Elena Breschi, is among the best; Frida herself has such an interesting story that they could do a whole musical about her. The lyrics are by Miranda Cooper, who has written songs for Girls Aloud and Kylie among others, and playwright Chris Bush, wrote the recent Olivier-winning Standing At The Sky’s Edge and is also the main person behind the book’s adaptation.
At times it does have the feel of an after-school special: granted, I was au fait with many of the biographical facts already, and to reiterate am older than the musical’s primary demographic. Even then, there’s still a lot to enjoy. The show is a lot of fun, most successfully with the neon-draped Mary, Mary And Marie number. Here, the audience gets to learn about Mary Anning and Seacole, and Marie Curie: not the superheroes that Jade initially imagines them to be, but towering historical figures.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World would be an ideal school trip show, the better to get boys learning this stuff too – there’s a lot for all kids to enjoy.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Wed 17 Jan
On until Sun 21 Jan. Tickets: £15-£36. Info: here
words CHRIS WILLIAMS