Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World: The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff – review

Cardiff theatre
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World Cardiff

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Thanks to Wales Millennium Centre for providing us tickets to Fantastically Great Women for the purpose of this review

What an amazingly inspiring show to kick off 2024 at Wales Millennium Centre. Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is in Cardiff until Sunday, and it’s an empowering look at some of history’s most important women, set to a soundtrack of upbeat pop-influenced songs, and jam-packed with inspirational messages that will make you feel like you can change the world.

Based on the award-winning children’s picture book of the same name – which was written by Kate Pankhurst, a descendent of the great suffragette Emmeline – it follows young Jade (Rachel Seirian), who gets lost on a school trip to the local museum. Worried that no one has even noticed she’s missing, and struggling with the impending divorce of her parents andfrusrated at having no say in her future, she stumbles into the not-yet-open Gallery of Greatness and is surprised to come face to face with some of the trailblazing women of the past 200 years or so; courageous women who defied the odds and paved the way for those who came after them, politically, culturally, and by being experts in their fields in an era dominated by men.

Women including Sacagawea, Frida Kahlo and Marie Curie (played by Elena Breschi); Emmeline Pankhurst and Agent Fifi (Jennifer Caldwell); Gertrude Ederle, Jane Austin and Mary Anning (Chloe Hart); Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and Mary Seacole (Leah Vassell); and Anne Frank (Millie Kiss). As Jade learns about their achievements and struggles, she’s reminded that even the smallest of actions can make a difference, as well as the importance of being true to yourself.

Produced by the team who brought us the theatrical phenomenon Six, the comparisons between the two are inevitable. And although Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is not a patch on Six, it shares the same style of feisty feminism, vibrant soundtrack, bright and vivid sets and costumes, and observations on what it is to be female, as told through the experiences of scientists, authors, nurses and even fossil hunters and secret agents.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

With an age guidance of 7+, it’s perfect for the 7-12 age group, although there’s plenty for all ages, and it’s certainly one for men and boys as well women and girls. I took my daughter, who at 14 is slightly above the target audience, but as she’s owned the book since it was first published, as well a a few others like it, she was keen to see the stage version.

We loved seeing these women’s strong and inspiring stories played out on stage and although the production doesn’t shy away from complex issues, it’s full of humour too, and had us laughing out loud throughout.

The music is lively and catchy, coming from pop writing duo Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo, who have penned hits for Kylie, Girls Aloud and Miley Cyrus among others. It’s all played live with musicians Audra Cramer, Isis Dunthorne and Nicola T Chang sat in cubes that form part of the set. Highlights for me include Emmeline Pankhurst, clad in a glitzy military-style costume, rapping her way through Deeds Not Words, the emotive Rosa’s Lullaby, and World of Colour, which brings to life Frieda Kahlo’s vision with the most colourful of costumes and rhythmic drumming.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

The show points out that although these women are pioneers, their battles haven’t been easy – and there’s still a long way to go in the fight for equality.

You’ll come out wanting to change the world – although with an appreciation that these great women had it really hard, with obstacles (and people) in their way, and many of them often not being appreciated in their own lifetime.

I only wish there had been a show like this when I was younger to inspire and empower my generation – but as we’re reminded tonight, progress is slow, but it is happening and shows such as this one are empowering a whole new generation as well as reminding older ones how far we’ve come.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

Fantastically Great Women is at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff until Sunday 21 January. Tickets, priced from £15, are still available.

Age guidance: 7+. Running time: 80 minutes with no interval.

Also coming up at Wales Millennium Centre: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (19-21 January); Peter Pan Goes Wrong (22-27 January); Jesus Christ Superstar (29 January-3 February). See the Wales Millennium Centre website for full details.

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