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Review of Lizzie at Greenwich Theatre

LIZZIE: Jodie Jacobs (Bridget Sullival), Bjørg Gamst (Lizzie Borden), Eden Espinosa (Emma Borden), Bleu Woodward (Alice Russell) - Foto by Søren Malmose
LIZZIE: Jodie Jacobs (Bridget Sullivan), Bjørg Gamst (Lizzie Borden), Eden Espinosa (Emma Borden), Bleu Woodward (Alice Russell) – Foto by Søren Malmose

There was a time rock musicals were edgy and fresh for no other reason than because they were rock musicals. But in an age where new rock shows are appearing from all sides of the globe, how do you stand out? You put an axe-murderer on stage, surround her with some of the most phenomenal voices in musical theatre, add killer guitar riffs and light the place up like a hard rock gig!

Directed by Victoria Bussert and fresh off the Danish stage, Lizzie is an all-American Rock musical based on the story of Lizzie Borden, whose parents were axed to death in their home in 1892. Eclectic to say the least, Lizzie doesn’t fit in, or even around, the box of traditional musical theatre, but then again, neither did Rocky Horror when it premiered in 1973.

The cast of Lizzie are phenomenal in terms of vocal skill. All four cast members wield stunning voices which result in countless goosebump moments and are supported unwaveringly by musical director Martin Bergmann Kong and the superb six-piece on-stage band.

Bjørg Gamst brings an eccentric edge to the title role of Lizzie, somewhat unhinged and undoubtedly manipulative, yet at the same time oddly innocent. Whatever it is, it works and it sets the tone of the production. Gamst is supported by Bleu Woodward and the two work beautifully together to carry the main narrative. Unsurprisingly, the stand out performances come from Jodie Jacobs and Eden Espinosa who are both unparalleled in their vocal ability and presence on stage. Jacobs comic timing is exceptional while the strength of Espinosa works to anchor the piece, reminding us why both are leading ladies in the genre.

The chemistry between the four leads is outstanding, however, the use of hand-held microphones does at times place a strain on the realism of the relationships. This is tied into one of the biggest hurdles faced by the production. While the lighting, sound, and costumes are brilliant, the vision of the piece seems somewhat confused. Given the minimalistic set and limited use of props, the production could be classed as a live concept album rather than a fully-fledged musical, however, the choreography and physicality of the piece suggest otherwise.

The use of hand-held microphones and stylised rock movement appears intended to position the production as a musical-come-rock-concert, however, the execution isn’t there and it feels as though the production team needs to trust the score, cast and musicians to carry the show without the added gimmicks. Indeed, when you have the likes of Jodie Jacobs and Eden Espinosa on the same stage you don’t need cliché dips of the microphone stand to make it rock and roll!

Lizzie is a whirlwind cornucopia of huge voices and wailing guitars underpinned by an American legend. An exciting piece of theatre that is steadily gaining a cult following; Lizzie will certainly grow legs in the coming years so if rock theatre is your thing, it’s not one to miss!

Three and a half gold stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

On a sweltering summer morning in 1892, in a small New England city, a prominent businessman and his wife were brutally axed to death in their home. Their daughter Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect. Lizzie’s trial was a coast-to-coast media sensation, and her story has become an American legend.

Now turned into an acclaimed rock musical, Fredericia Teater transfer the show to Greenwich for its eagerly anticipated UK premiere…

Presented by: Fredericia Teater in assaction with Aria Entertainment
By: Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Cast includes: Bjorg Gamst, Jodie Jacobs, Eden Espinosa, Bleu Woodward
http://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/

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