REVIEW: LIZZIE (Greenwich Theatre) ★★★★★
The Greenwich Theatre brings Sex, Axe and Rock ‘n’ Roll to the stage
The last couple of years in London have seen some wonderful musical productions such as Dreamgirls, Groundhog Day and Funny Girl, but this Lizzie is absolutely brilliant, fantastic right up there with the best of them. This is a rock opera, as raunchy and outrageous as any good rock opera should be. As the program so aptly describes it, Sex, Axe and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It’s a sad story but the show stayed upbeat with humour and song. There were 25, brand new, terrific rock’n’roll songs exquisitley performed by the cast of four ladies. The choreography was startlingly good and wow, can those girls dance.
The cast of four young women (all very experienced theatre actresses) were outstanding with great performances and fantastic singing. The six piece backing band was located at the periphery of the stage throughout, and though you could see them and they were something of an anachronism in the 1892 setting, they were not obtrusive.
The four young women comprised Lizzie, played by Bjørg Gamst, who is either the object of her father’s brutish behavior or a dreamer with a persecution complex, she could be either. Then there is Alice Russell, played by Bleu Woodward, Lizzie’s friend and maybe more.
Broadway theatre star Eden Espinosa plays Lizzie’s really rather strong sister, Emma, who loyally supports Lizzie. Last, but by no means whatsoever least, Jodie Jacobs who plays the family’s mischievous Irish house maid, Bridget Sullivan.
The true events took place in 1892 in the town of Fall River in the US state of Massachusetts, when someone chopped up Lizzie Borden’s step mother and (reportedly) abusive father with an axe. As a ditty at the time put it:
Lizzie Borden took an axe,
Gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
Gave her father forty-one
While not in the best taste and numerically incorrect, this did show that public opinion was firmly against Lizzie. Another popular song was called “You Can’t Chop Your Poppa Up In Massachusetts” by the Chad Mitchell Trio, which clearly comes down on the “Lizzie was a murderer” side, though long after her death. You could not fail to notice that in the publics’ perception Lizzie Andrew Borden was guilty. At least ten previous shows, films etc., have been made about these events but this must be one of the best.
It became a worldwide sensation, people were enthralled by the story of murder most foul perpetrated by a young, god fearing girl. Overtones of incest, lesbian sex and mass pigeon slaughtering did nothing to calm the frenzy. The story became the subject of popular songs and music hall jokes.
At her trial Lizzie was found not guilty, but no one at the time, or since, have doubted her guilt. She continued to live in Fall River until her death by natural causes in 1927, at the age of sixty seven.
The show was first performed in Copenhagen two years ago but is new to the U.K. The audience loved it and were absolutely buzzing. While there were positively no weaknesses in the cast, I must mention the outstandingly mesmerizing Bjørg Gamst who played Lizzie. Her facial expressions were so very animated, hilarious and at the same time flirtatious. Funny one moment and surprisingly sad the next… what an actress!
Sunday 12 March 2017 will be the final performance at the Greenwich Theatre. Don’t miss it if you can help it, it is exceptionally good.
Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: Soren Malmose