The American gothic rock musical Lizzie, which is now receiving its UK premiere in a limited season at London’s Greenwich Theatre, opens and closes with a nursery rhyme I memorised in my own American youth about the real-life 19th-century crime:
“Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks;
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.”
It is a truly mind-blowing show, performed by four female actors – here, Brits Jodie Jacobs and Bleu Woodward, and, as the Borden sisters, Broadway’s Eden Espinosa and Dane Bjorst Gamst, reprising her role (though this time in English) from a 2014 Danish-language production – who front a six-piece band. Act One leads us up to the two bloody, and gleefully messy, murders; Act Two covers the trial in which Borden was acquitted – the OJ Simpson of her day.
For the American writers of the show, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt, it’s been an incredible journey from when they first started working on the piece in 1990, through to a concept album and now international productions. This staging is a co-production between Denmark’s Fredericia Teater and prolific British producer Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, who clearly hope that the show will have a future life still.
So there was plenty to talk about for last night’s post-show Q&A, when I was joined on stage by the producers, the writers, director Victoria Bussert and the cast, with lots of input from a very enthusiastic audience. Why was Lizzie Borden acquitted when she seemed so clearly guilty? What happened to the women involved afterwards? Which audition songs got Bleu and Jodie the jobs?
Why did Eden choose this piece for her UK debut? How did the director make heads explode onstage so effectively? Can men be feminists too? Do the cast get to keep their ‘mega-slut’ costumes? Have a listen to the full unedited podcast below for answers to these and many other questions! (Oh, and apologies for the rather abrupt start on the audio – I forgot to set up my recorder until I was halfway through my introductions).
Lizzie continues at London’s Greenwich Theatre until 12 March 2017.
Interval tweet @GreenwichTheatr with writers @alanshewitt @timmaner @cheslikdemeyer. Tune in to @LizzieMusicalUK for Q&A tweets from 9.20 pic.twitter.com/iqvCSDOxZB
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) February 23, 2017
Event photography by Anthony Kelly.
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