WHENEVER a new production is preparing to come to the stage there is always an air of excitement. But, you sense that with Lizzie, a rock musical based on the story of Lizzie Borden, everyone involved believes they are part of something really special.

Lizzie opens at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester - the latest in an ever-increasing line of pioneering productions from a theatre which is gaining a national reputation. After a month in Manchester, the production will head out on tour for the remainder of the year.

The trial of Lizzie Borden, accused of murdering both her father and stepmother with an axe was a sensation, when it occurred in a small American town in 1892.

The musical looks at Lizzie’s life and what led her to being accused of these savage crimes.

Lancashire Telegraph: Lauren Drew and Shekinah McFarlane in rehearsal for Lizzie at Hope Mill Theatre

“It’s a show which explores so much,” said Lauren Drew who plays Lizzie. “and its themes are still so relevant today.”

Lauren, who won a best supporting actress award for her performance in Legally Blonde the Musical will be appearing at Hope Mill for the first time.

“We have all been saying since day one that we have got something really special here,” she said. “The vibe has been electric since everyone first got together.”

Lizzie is a curious mix. It’s part true crime tale, part history lesson, part out and out rock musical - an all female live band accompanies the show - and it explores the taboos and social norms of the time which some 130 years on are still issues today.

“It’s just so relevant,” said Mairi Barclay who plays Bridget, the shows unofficially narrator, part time wise woman and regular comedy turn. “It feels so empowering to be telling this story now and I love it that it is based on a true story. It gives you a real foundation as a performer and you feel a responsibility to do your character justice.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that three of the cast have previously appeared in Six, the blockbuster musical based on the wives of Henry VI which has become a global phenomenon.

For Lizzie has a similar feel to it. The show is sung-through, the musical numbers are - in the words of Lauren “absolute bangers” - and the cast play sassy, strong-minded women who stand up for themselves at a time when society was very much weighted against them.

“This show’s certainly got that culty vibe to it,” said Mairi.

“Oh it’s got so much potential going forward, said Lauren. “It really suits the time we are in.

“In the theatre world you have got both Six and Heathers which attract a devoted following and Lizzie has something of that to it. We are in an age of the true crime documentary, I mean I love a good Netflix serial killer show. And without wishing to give too much away we do play very much in two different worlds. A bit like Stranger Things where you had the upside down world, there are two different worlds in Lizzie.”

All the cast that there is a major responsibility in dealing with sensitive issues which form part of the storyline which range from sexual abuse to coming out.

“There is a balancing act,” said Lauren. “We touch on some very important issues but all within the context of a rock musical so that is a challenge.”

“We’re not advocating that women should take an axe to their abusers,” said Mairi, “but we are advocating that women should stand up for themselves and not be silenced.

“In real life these characters risked everything and stood together.”

Maiya Quansah-Breed who previously starred in Rent at Hope Mill, and is one of the former Six cast members, plays Alice, the next door neighbour of Lizzie Borden.

Lancashire Telegraph: Maiya Quansah-Breed in rehearsals for Lizzie at Hope Mill Theatre

“She and Lizzie are friends,” said Maiya. “But Alice hopes that they might be more than that but doesn’t know if it would be reciprocated. You have to remember this was a time when you could be hanged for being gay but she tries to show Lizzie that the world does not have to be dark all the time.

“I knew nothing about Lizzie Borden until I was told about the production but once I looked into it I knew it was right up my street. Even today no-one knows if Lizzie was a murderer but would you really blame her if she was given all she had to deal with.”

Lizzie made its debut in 2009 and was most recently performed in 2017.

“We have had workshops with the writers which has been amazing,” said Lauren. “The show explores so many different things but in such a fascinating way. There’s such a big responsibility for all of us to ensure that it resonates with an audience but doesn’t get too dark.

“For me though it’s wicked to be playing Lizzie. she’s such a complex character. It’s amazing having so much to play with

Lizzie, Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, Friday, September 1 to Saturday, September 30. Details from www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk