Reviewed by Nathan Deane & Jasmine White
The original Danish production of Lizzie opened to nothing but five star reviews – but does the show transfer well to British audiences?
Steven Cheslik-Demeyer, Alan Steven Hewitt and Tim Maner’s heavy rock musical is based on the real life case of Lizzie Borden – who is considered America’s first murderess. She was trialled and acquitted for the murders of her father and stepmother in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. The musical explores Lizzie’s relationships with her sister, Emma Borden, her neighbour and supposed lover, Alice Russell, and her maid, Bridget Sullivan…and no-one else.
That’s right, not even her parents are characters in this show – there are only four women. And boy, do they kill it. Danish actress Bjørg Gamst plays Lizzie Borden herself and she does it perfectly, during the first act with the shy, sheltered girl and the second act as a killer in love with the attention she’s getting. Her first song, This Is Not Love, she sings about her relationship with her father, with very poignant lyrics, especially about how he “touches” his daughter. Lizzie breaks at the end of act one, ending with the brutal slaughter of her parents (excellently portrayed by two pumpkins stuffed with spaghetti and jam among other things). She plays the break down with such passion that those poor pumpkins are all over the front row by the end of the act. Her Danish accent is very noticeable but she brings it on board as part of the character, making it work.
US-Born Eden Espinosa plays Emma Lenora Borden, who is the mother figure of Lizzie, explained in her first song “Sweet Little Sister”. Emma leaves halfway through the first act and returns at the beginning of the second act. Eden is fierce throughout the show, and her character is always upright and proper. But Emma is also rude to anyone who isn’t her sister. Her act two belter “What The Fuck Now, Lizzie?” has Eden singing a song with so many f-bombs it’s surprising it’s not a world record.
Bleu Woodward plays Alice Manely Russell, Lizzie’s next door neighbour and supposed lover. Alice is a secretive young lady, who explains to the audience very early on that she is besotted with Lizzie. Her biggest song, “Will You Stay?” was delivered with brilliant emotion and her voice echoed through the walls and into the hearts of the audience. Lizzie and Alice share a small, lovely kiss at the end of the song, and by the beginning of act two, they both go off stage to share some naughty fun. Alice’s emotion is captured perfectly in every song she has a main part it. During the second act, Alice is scared but also attracted to Lizzie. She betrays her love for Lizzie in court and speaks against her.
Finally, Jodie Jacobs plays Bridget Sullivan (sometimes called Maggie by Miss Emma and Miss Lizzie). Bridget is a mischievous, comedic narrator character. Whilst Alice is always trying to stop the main action happening, Bridget is always there to make sure something does happen, no matter what. Bridget turns some of the sadder parts of the show into comedic moments, and Jodie Jacobs delivers lines and action extremely well. During the song “Why Are All These Heads Off?” she shows extreme energy as she bounces around the stage.
The four girls together provide powerhouse vocals. From the opening number, we can tell that their voices blend extremely well. The voices shake the house along with the amazing music, provided by a six-piece rock band. The music really stands out and brings the story well into the 21st century, with rock styles varying from hair band rock to screamo. Victoria Bussert’s amazing direction was suited to each cast members style and personality. This show is a great night out, you will be jamming in your seat. A flawless production, it showcases the best that London and Denmark have to offer in a collaborative production with Aria Entertainment and Fredericia Teater.