Emma Reeves' stage adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women comes to the West End this autumn, opening on 13 October 2004 (previews from 27 September 2004) at the Duchess Theatre, where it’s initially booking up to 15 January 2005.

Set in New England, Alcott's book follows the adventures of the March family - romantic Meg, fiery Jo, shy Beth and wilful Amy - four ambitious sisters growing up and falling in love during the American Civil War.

Since its publication in 1868, Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel has enchanted millions of readers and spawned myriad adaptations for television, radio and film. The 1994 Hollywood version starred Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst. In 2003, the book was included in the Top 20 of the BBC’s Big Read in a list that also included War and Peace, The Lord of the Rings and modern fare such as Harry Potter.

Reeves' stage version for Novel Theatre Company was first seen at the Edinburgh Festival in 1999. It transferred in April 2001 to the fringe Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, north London, and was revived for sell-out Christmas seasons, in 2001 at Hampstead's New End Theatre and in 2002 at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler's Wells.

At the Duchess, previous cast members Sarah Grochala, Sarah Edwardson and Diana Eskell reprise their roles as Jo, Meg and Amy with Phoebe Thomas joining them as fourth sister Beth. Also returning to the cast are Lizzie Conrad (as Mrs March), Ann Micklethwaite (Sallie Gardiner), Paul Hampton (Laurie) and Tim Fessler (John Brooke). Others in the cast include Sarah Crowden, James Rhodes, Sue Appleby, Daniel Betts and Henrietta Faye.

Little Women is directed by Andrew Loudon and designed by Rachel Payne, with music by Paul Weir and lighting by Matthew Eagland. The Duchess Theatre has been dark since a one-week engagement for comic Pieter-Dirk Uys in June.

- by Hannah Kennedy