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REVIEW - LIZZIE The Musical is sensational - it'll be a crime to miss it!


On Sunday afternoon, we were invited to Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester to see LIZZIE the Musical. Fittingly our reviewer, Lizzie Johnston went to see the show. Read what she thought of this new production...

LIZZIE: The Musical has caught my eye since Hope Mill first announced its run as a ‘true crime rock musical’ is not something you come across often - also the fact I have the same name, I’m easily amused! The show itself is not widely known, having premiered at The Living Theatre in New York City in 2009, this production is the first in the UK and what a joy that it is at the Hope Mill Theatre. Upon arriving at the theatre, six giant, purple letters greeted us and from then we knew we were in for a treat. Whether Lizzie is a criminal or not, this would be a celebration of the woman who got the country talking. 


The musical explores the crucial years of Lizzie Borden’s life as a true crime case unfolds around her. She was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in the late summer of 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The musical delves into the mysterious mind of Lizzie and speculates on the motivations she may have had: loss of inheritance, history of sexual abuse, overwhelming oppression ,and madness. Alongside her older sister Emma, maid Bridget, and neighbour Alice, LIZZIE: The Musical brings to life the infamous case that had the American public hooked. 


There’s no bigger compliment than to say you’d see a show again, and I left LIZZIE wanting more. The female-led show, fronted by the four characters, is as uplifting as true crime can get. There aren’t any particular ‘stand-out moments’ for me as the production constantly entertained, had the audience hooked and never once fell flat, and that’s a rare feat. Think of a Netflix true crime documentary, one that follows the lead up and motivation behind the killing and pair it with a strong, female rock band - that’s LIZZIE.


Lauren Drew (Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, SIX) takes on the titular role of Lizzie Borden, and she is a force. Incredible vocals show the ups and downs of Lizzie's life, as Drew delivers passion throughout. Lizzie’s sister, Emma, is played by Shekinah McFarlane (SIX, Parade, The Voice) and McFarlane’s independence and power set the dynamic of big sister to little sister, together they are a strong-willed sister duo who shouldn’t be messed with. 


Maiya Quansah-Breed (SIX, Rent) brings a soft, feminine touch to the show as love interest Alice. Despite her gentle nature, Alice is strong-willed and courageous who’s chemistry with Lizzie is electric. Bridget, or sometimes called Maggie, is a comedic relief and fantastically played by Mairi Barclay (Pippin, Mother Goose). She leaves the audience questioning her participation in the crime, being a confidant for the sisters and so much more than just their maid. 


The set is simple, like a wooden barn, with a central door at the back of the stage. Props are used to change scenes, from chairs to the all important axe. Pigeons surround the top of the barn, a reference of Lizzie’s love for the birds and desperate want to escape. The costumes are straight out of the 1800s, which makes the rock essence of the show even more entertaining as their looks couldn’t be further from a hit rock band. A noticeable moment was how Lizzie’s hair became looser as the story progressed, showing how she was breaking away from the situation. From a neat bun to loose waves, you could physically see her change of character. 


Bright lights and loud music made this a rock concert not to forget. The intimate setting of the Hope Mill never takes away from productions that hold such presence and power, this show could hold its own on the big stage and Hope Mill gives the audience a closure connection to the characters. 


The empowering score, the unbelievable vocals and all around creativity of LIZZIE bring to life a crazy, bloody tale of four unexpecting women. It’s feminine and a great big boost of girl-power, with a score and historical story which will likely be compared to the hit musical SIX.Grab your fans, pick up your mics and head to Hope Mill. It would be a crime to miss it. 


LIZZIE the Musical is on at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 30th September 2023.



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