Miss Lizzie Borden (Bjørg Gamst) takes an axe, looks scared and alone, walks centre stage, and dramatically breaks open two watermelons, her father and stepmother. Somebody Will Do Something is the climactic end to Act 1 as guts and gore splatter across the front row. Lizzie wipes the gore on her white undergarments and the transformation into her psychotic alter ego is complete. It’s sudden, it’s instantaneous and when all four ladies return for Act 2, the period costumes and conservative hairstyles and replaced with burlesque, rock chick chic. Victoria Bussert’s production of Lizzie is too obvious, too black and white in its characterisation; ironic given the level of colour in Martin Jensens’s lighting design, Michael Nøhr’s costumes and Michael Skytte’s hair.
Rock musicals are always going to be in your face, loud, thrashing affairs – if done properly they should have a live band (this one is kept together and at fortissimo constantly by musical director Martin Bergmann Konge) and aim to shock and rock. But that doesn’t mean subtlety has to be thrown out the window – the tender parts should be exactly that, using shading in the design and the action to colour and emphasise the window rattling climaxes. In Act 1 Gamst seems shy and retiring, with the odd look of madness dancing through her eyes. But her voice chokes at the top notes, doesn’t feel comfortable as it should – Gotta Get Out Of Here is as much an instruction for the audience than Lizzie’s desperation at being trapped. Likewise, her friend and intimated lover Alice Russell (Bleu Woodward) has to push for her range in If You Knew. This is quickly set to be a show carried by sister Emma Borden (Eden Espinosa), channelling Elphaba in her movements about stage and looking more and more the star with a stalwart show in Sweet Little Sister. Espinosa has played the green witch on Broadway and can never quite remove herself from these micro-mannerisms. But the true star of stage, from her first pure and effortless note to her comic reactions and lilting Irish accent is housemaid Bridget Sullivan (Jodie Jacobs).
Gamst comes alive in Act 2 after her transformation – the costume and hair seem the new skin needed to really let rip in What The Fuck Now, Lizzie? and Thirteen Days In Taunton and all four gel to produce powerful stand and deliver performances. Burn The Old Thing Up is perfectly harmonised between the exceptionally in sync sisters and Questions, Questions is the epitome of a well-honed musical performance. Greg Daniels’ choreography and all four voices merge – Lizzie is absolutely a show in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With intense (at times overbearing) musically jarring melodies from Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, this song sums up all the best parts of the show. The true deficiency is in a complete lack of effective book – Tim Maner has thrown together a skeleton of the story without any consideration for development of character and ebb and flow to keep the audience questioning and guessing.
This rock musical has all the elements of a potential success, but is completely carried by some well-chosen casting. Jacobs is a personal highlight – the much-needed light and shade to an otherwise one-dimensional show. Mercury Rising shows off the sheer talent and force of will that oozes from her performance, completely captivating with a single note that provides the rollercoaster journey the audience is constantly craving.
Director: Victoria Bussert
Musical Director: Martin Bergmann Konge
Producer: Fredericia Teater in association with Aria Entertainments
Book: Tim Maner
Music: Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner
Choreographer: Greg Daniels
Design: Jens Frausing and Anders D. Jensen (set); Michael Nøhr (costume); Michael Skytte (hair & make-up); Tim Høyer (sound); Martin Jensen (lighting)
Cast: Bjørg Gamst; Bleu Woodward; Eden Espinosa; Jodie Jacobs
Musicians: Steffen Schackinger; Jens Kokholm; Allan Nagel; Lard Daugaard; Jess Cox
Runs until 12 March – for more information and to book tickets, visit the website.