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A CurtainUp London Review
Brought to the Greenwich stage by Aria Theatre in conjunction with the Frederica Teater of Denmark, Lizzie the musical has creatives by Americans. Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner have been working off and on Lizzie for 27 years. The programme tells us that it owes less to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steven Sondheim than to Bikini Kill, the Runaways and Heart. Indeed the famous axe is not the only piece of heavy metal that will figure in this musical.
Four women singers will front the show with the first act seen in Victorian costume, a six piece rock band plays behind. Bjorg Gamst plays Lizzie Andrew Borden, never Elizabeth, always just Lizzie and her middle name after her father Andrew Borden. Blonde and sweet faced she looks a little like a young Lindsay Duncan.
Lizzie tells us that she is her father's favourite child and when we see her sinister elder sister Emma Leonora Borden (Eden Espinosa) it is easy to see why. However Mr Borden's attachment to his pretty younger daughter is one which takes on an altogether darker hue as Lizzie convinces us that her father's intentions are incestuous in the song "This is Not Love". No one plays Mr Borden but we see a photograph of him projected as a negative emphasizing his dark side.
Next door lives Lizzie's friend Alice Manely Russell (Bleu Woodward) the neighbour who is sexually attracted to Lizzie and sees what is happening inside the Borden house.
There is the maid Bridget Sullivan (Jodie Jacobs) whom the sisters call Maggie because that was the name of their previous maid and they haven't bothered to learn the new maid's name. Bridget will provide much of the comic humour as she sardonically comments on the actions of the Borden family. I liked the song in the first half about how Lizzie attempted to buy prussic acid from the local pharmacy and in "Shattercane and Velvet Grass" she lists poisons.
The front row of the audience has been issued with plastic sheeting, a hint that there could be some spill from the stage when the murders get going. We watch in horror as Lizzie finds her pet doves which have been killed by her father.
After the interval, the performers have changed into basques and burlesque costumes, their hair long and full. Gone is the Victorian decorum and this enjoyable half really works well as a rock concert in full swing with smoke cannisters and flames. The singing is strong particularly from Bjorg Gamst and Eden Espinosa but Jodie Jacobs laces her part with Irish wit. "It blew the roof off the House of Barden".
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Music by Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics by Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner
Book by Tim Maner
Directed by Victoria Bussert
Starring: Jodie Jacobs, Bleu Woodward, Bjorg Gamst, Eden Espinosa
Set Design: Jens Frausing and Anders D Jensen
Costume Design: Michael Nohr
Choreography: Martin Bergman Korge
Orchestrator: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Musical Director: Richard Beadle
Lighting Design: Bo Kudsk Kristensen
Sound Design: Tim Hoyer
Running time: One hour 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 8858 4447
Booking to 12th March 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 24th February 2017 performance at The Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill London SE10 8ES
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