Pros: Blistering score, faultless vocals and a mesmerising story. A well produced and executed piece.
Cons: Not a family friendly show, with some disturbing scenes and strong language.
Upon introduction to the concept of this musical, I was sceptical as to how a concert-esque staging could do justice to such a rich piece of storytelling. Needless to say, my scepticism was immediately withdrawn. Greenwich Theatre is neatly tucked away yet boasts an outstanding space. For Lizzie the auditorium was aptly filled with smoke, plunging you immediately into the eerie world inside the Borden household, America 1982.
‘Lizzie Borden took an axe, Gave her mother fourty whacks, When she saw what she had done, Gave her father fourty-one’. If that initial tag line seems somewhat dark and disturbing, then the show holds an entire underworld of twisted and tragic events, from manipulation and deceit, to blood and brutality, so much so that this show even comes with its own splash zone with plastic sheets provided. Lizzie, an American legend, tells the perverse tale of the murders of both Mr and Mrs Borden at the hands of their youngest daughter, Lizzie, when she reaches the end of her tether after years of isolation and mistreatment. Lizzie’s story is supported by Emma, her sister, Bridget, her maid and Alice, her friend and lover; all four women maintaining the secrets hidden in the wealthy Borden house. This gritty tale is powerful, bitter and cruelly hilarious.
Fronting the story were four absolute powerhouses of leading ladies, (Bjorg Gamst, Bleu Woodward, Eden Espinosa and Jodie Jacobs) delivering rock ballad after rock ballad with unwavering belts and flawless diction. The score was so infectious the whole audience seemed to be involuntarily tapping a toe or bobbing a head along. Punchy reckless numbers were juxtaposed with some really moving songs, unveiling the vulnerability and pain beneath the sociopathic Lizzie, and the means behind her madness. Every song was such a hit that I felt like I was being given fourty whacks. Additionally, Victoria Bussert’s direction led to some gripping action and seamless synchrony, making this production sharp and significant. Absurdity and intensity made for an explosive performance.
It was most obviously the sound, projection and lighting that provided Lizzie with an unmistakable concert vibe. Ambient colours graced the five projection boards upstage, setting the tone for each number, whilst full bodied lighting beams dramatised the space. Harsh light pierced through the fog, ransacking every calmly lit area and emphasising areas left shadowy and dark. Martin Jensen’s lighting design was masterful and jolting. In addition, for such a long, tiered auditorium and strong bodied belts from the actors, the sound quality was impeccable. Technically it was slick and professional.
For me, Lizzie is currently heading the rock musical movement, showcasing a cacophony of pure talent, gutsy storytelling and sheer brilliance. With its spellbinding approach to theatre, it is evident to see why this show has become wildly popular and exciting. An idea of brilliance and a delivery of genius, I will certainly be giving Lizzie a chance to wow me a second time, and I urge everyone to witness this innovative piece. Outstanding.
Author: Tim Maner
Director: Victoria Bussert
Booking until: March 12th 2017
Box Office: 020 8858 7755
Booking Link: http://lizziemusical.co.uk/