Wednesday 1 March 2017

Lizzie - Review

Greenwich Theatre, London


Music and lyrics by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner
Book by Tim Maner
Directed by Victoria Bussert

Bjorg Gamst and Eden Espinosa

Staging Lizzie in central Greenwich, one wonders if the Danish co-producers had been led to believe that they were headed for North Greenwich and the O2, rather than the more homely intimacy of the town's theatre. For it turns out that their show, based around the true tale of the allegedly patricidal Lizzie Borden, is more akin to rock concert than musical. From the stadium-inspired lighting rig, through to the gig-style hand-held mics (are they really necessary when everyone’s wearing a headset?), through to a score that's more Axel Rose than axe-fuelled slaughter, Lizzie's European tour seems somewhat stifled staged in anything less than an arena.

The energy of the piece comes from its powerful music - the six piece (predominantly Danish) onstage band are sensational and notwithstanding an overly zealous bass line, some of the guitar work is exquisite.

Lyrically it's uninspiring, rarely getting any better than the infamous kiddies’ nursery rhyme and the whole thing is very heavy on exposition. But hey, Guns N' Roses weren't Shakespeare either. What's beyond doubt is that the cast of four, all supremely talented women, make the best of the minimalist direction that Bussert foists upon them.

Bjorg Gamst plays the title character in an unsettling and unquestionably electrically charged performance, but which only sometimes hints at the used, abused and confused woman. Borden was a damaged 32 year old at the time of the killings, yet Gamst plays her as a gamine teen.

The evening does however have moments of magic from the exquisite vocal presence of Broadway's Eden Espinosa, making a rare appearance on this side of the pond as Lizzie's sister Emma Leonora. Espinosa's duetting in two numbers in particular, Burn The Old Thing Up and Watchman For The Morning justify the ticket price. 

Yet again, London is seeing the curiosity of a show that seems like more like the staging of a concept album and not a fully developed musical. And all in all Greenwich's theatre seats are just too restricting - Lizzie is a show that's gonna be best savoured stoned, and from the mosh pit.

Runs until 12th March
Photo credit: Soren Malmose

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