By Natalie Leslie
“Lil Women: A Rap Musical” is a twist on “Little Women,” and legendary rap remixes it into a theatrical rhyming experience. The plot was easy to follow but a bit all over the place as the performers grasp for opportunities to display their hip hop skills. One might see this as an ironic misuse of hip-hop while another might applaud a modern spin-off of a classic.
This musical is stirring up buzz for sure, as it pushes conversations about cultural appropriation and the significance of the rap industry. Perception is key while watching this musical unfold, perhaps influenced by your experience of hip hop originals.
All around, the cast’s performances were sound. The youngest sister, Amy, was particularly charming with her quirky mannerisms. On the other hand, the character development of Marmee and Beth was minimal. Marmee grew a little more into her funny self as the 3 round rap battle began between Jo and Meg—A silly 1830’s version of “Wild ‘N Out.”
The sisters’ bond is faced with obstacles like Beth growing sick, missing their father who is away at war, and the youngest sister being bullied at school. Nonetheless, the women continue to spread love and sisterhood through dropping fierce bars. The inclusiveness of the audience within the show kept viewers on their toes in anticipation.
Although the father’s role was distanced, he held the strongest comedic stage presence through his letters “back home.” As the show progresses we learn the aspirations of the girls. They range from desiring to be a wife, to fulfilling a successful career, to nothing other than to support others.
It was difficult to distinguish between Jo’s and Amy’s love interest(s) as different characters were portrayed by the same actor. Theodore had animated expressions and body language but between switching accents and glasses, he got a little lost in the beats. Mr. Brooks was an understated yet impressionable character who switched between a beatboxing audience member to a sophisticated and sweet suitor. Altogether, an enjoyable cast executed a well-organized performance.
You might want to argue whether taking iconic rap music and mixing it with such conservative and classic motifs works. The show was a goofy musical interpretation emphasizing the works of Eminem, Tupac, Kanye, and others. If you are looking for a tribute to the idols of rap this is not for you, but if a funky fresh perspective on an American novel is your groove, you should check this out.