Take two of the most phenomenally talented performers on the L.A. theater 
scene, add a critically acclaimed director and a superb design team, and give 
them an exquisite but little known musical to bring to life, and you have Syzygy 
Theatre Group’s remarkable production of Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon’s Goblin 

Goblin Market is based on a mid-19th century poem by Christina Rossetti which, 
despite the author’s insistence that it was a children’s poem, became infamous 
for its remarkable (for that time) sexual imagery.

Lizzie and Laura are two Victorian-era sisters who every day hear the “goblin 
men” hawking their exotic fruits.  Though Lizzie warns her against it, Laura 
succumbs to temptation and eats of the forbidden fruit.  And then…

We first meet the two sisters as they revisit their childhood nursery, dressed in 
mourning.  Amusing themselves with one of those memory games where each 
participant must add a new word to an increasingly long and difficult sentence, 
they soon remove each other’s outer garments down to their petticoats and 
bloomers, and begin to recall the events described above.

Lizzie is played by Jennifer Pennington, a gifted actress who can sing, and Laura 
by Tami Tappan Damiano, a gifted singer who can act. Each brings out the 
best of the other’s talents, allowing two of our finest performers to rise to new 

Goblin Market has been directed with vivid imagination by Martin Bedoian.  
One of its most memorable moments occurs when Laura opens a series of sparkly 
fruit, discovering various treasures in each—glitter, a rouge brush, a scarf…  
Bedoian has allowed/encouraged his actresses to delve into the sexual subtext 
of Rossetti’s poem, creating several dangerously erotic moments. At one point, 
a quite scary Damiano becomes a goblin herself, tempting Lizzie like a feral 
beast. Later, in an attempt to save Laura’s life, Lizzie makes Laura taste the juice 
of the forbidden fruits directly from her skin, and the effect on the audience is 

Pennington has already been described by this reviewer as “a younger sexier 
Judy Dench” for her brilliant (and very British) performance in Tender.  Here, in 
her own American voice, she reveals herself to be a fine singer as well. It is a 
pleasure to watch Pennington as she reveals the many layers which Lizzie hides 
under her primly starched exterior.  Damiano (The Wild Party, The Full Monty), a 
local musical theater treasure with Broadway starring credits, clearly relishes 
shedding her girl-next-door persona in an emotional tour de force of a 
performance. Pennington the singer more than holds her own against Damiano, 
and Damiano the actress more than holds her own against Pennington.

Goblin Market benefits immensely from a superb design team.  Jason Z. Cohen’s 
attic nursery, which has the requisite doll house, toy chests, music box, and 
rocking chair comes magically to life when Dave Mickey’s lighting reveal the 
walls to be see-through, and a red and green lit jungle of a woodland glen 
appears behind them at night.  Mickey is also responsible for the fine sound 
design, and Sherry Linnell has fashioned prim and proper Victorian dresses and 
undergarments for the two sisters. 

Pen and Harmon’s book and lyrics seamlessly combine lines from the poem, as 
well as words of their own inspiration. Pen’s music manages to be lovely and 
strangely discordant at once, which works well for this modern look at a more 
romantic era.  Her melodies are brought to life by an exquisite four-piece 
ensemble directed by Philip White.

At 70 minutes, Goblin Market is a small and delicate miracle of a musical play. 
Though not for audiences for which bigger must be better, it is most definitely a 
production to enchant and engross those in search of more challenging fare.  
Hopefully, it will find an enthusiastic audience during its stay in Burbank.

GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank. 

–Steven Stanley
September 22, 2007

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