Greenwich Theatre, London
Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Book: Tim Maner
Director: Victoria Bussert
Cast includes: Eden Espinosa, Bjorg Gamst, Jodie Jacobs, Bleu Woodward
Dates of run: Feb 22-March 12
Running time: one hour, 50 minutes including interval
From big budget to fringe to retro to quirky and ironic, musicals have swept the London stage as a feel-good formula destined to pack houses.
A gothic rock musical that requires a team of cleaners to de-gore the stage after the first half and should include earplugs in the programme just could become a cult.
It could also be a step too far, especially for audiences of Greenwich Theatre, which traditionally has delivered family pantomime and adaptations of the classics, but is undergoing local authority-funded renovations and a bold new ethos.
The big name in the cast of this UK premiere is Eden Espinosa, known for her belting performances in Wicked.
She takes the part of the elder sister Emma Leonora Borden.
Her strategic absence doesn’t go quite to plan in so far as there is a clear plan as the protagonist of this show Bjorg Gamst as Lizzie Andrew Borden – with a middle name after the hated father who wanted a son – gets hold of an axe and wields it.
The girl power is completed by Bleu Woodward as Lizzie’s lover Alice Russell and Jodie Jacobs as servant-cum-collaborator Bridget Sullivan – and under Victoria Bussert’s direction, it’s all about unsubtle raunch and getting away with it.
The biggest joke is stripping off to the corsets beneath the prim Victorian outer garments. Possibilities for more satisfying laughs around the idea of “turn your back for a minute and look what sweet little sister gets up to” are largely unexploited and we land up with an uneasy hybrid that is not exactly funny, but nor is it a serious treatment of the grave issue of child abuse it touches on.
As the girls strut in leather and fish nets, the only men in the performance are electric guitar players who provide screaming, fortissimo accompaniment.
Some in the audience leapt energised to their feet for the screeching finale, but at least as many did not.
Barbara Lewis © 2017.