Written by Patrick Chavis
(All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)
“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.” -anonymous
I had heard of Lizzie Borden before this production, and I had previously heard the folk rhyme that I posted on the top of this article. However, that was the extent of my Lizzie Borden knowledge. While I can definitely say I know a little bit more now after watching the show, I wouldn’t say Lizzie the Musical is the place to satisfy your itch for accurate history. What I would say is this: unlike Rent, which was a rock musical with lots of theatricality and some rock thrown in, the Lizzie production at the Chance Theater felt like a rock concert with a small dose of theatricality thrown in — but most importantly — it does ROCK!!!
The time was 1892, and Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect for the murder of her parents who were reportedly killed in their home with an ax. Borden was famously acquitted of the murder, but that didn’t stop everyone from speculating on whether she had actually done it. In Lizzie we are transported to the Borden’s house and watch an interesting fantasy take on what may have happened if Lizzie did actually kill her parents.
The story goes in a pretty straight forward order, and there are plenty of gothic and macabre themes tied in with all the characters along with a relationship arc. We also hear a lot of horror stories about the horrible treatment the sisters experienced in their family home while growing up. The characters sing about their struggles, but we don’t actually see that struggle. Because of that, the show lacks a sense of dramatic tension. Although I was getting pulled into the spectacle of everything and was enjoying the music, after a certain point it felt like I was watching a concert — a well themed, high concept concert for sure — but a concert nonetheless.
While the lack of tension is not something that translates well in this production. This doesn’t take away from the entertainment value Lizzie the Musical possesses. Lizzie has a smorgasbord of fantastically arranged rock songs. The subgenres of grunge, goth, punk, and metal are not only interwoven into the musical numbers but are also reflected in the costuming, movement and voice projection.
If the singing on the original cast recording is anything like the performances I heard at the Chance Theater, then it must be amazing.
The backing band in this show in combination with the four talented actresses/singers Lizzie Borden (Monika Pena), Alice Russell (Jisel Soleil Ayon), Bridget Sullivan (Nicole Gentile) and Emma Borden (Alli Rose Schynert) captivate your attention for the entire one hour and thirty minutes.
Nicole Gentile plays the Borden’s maid, Bridget Sullivan, and she was incredible. She’s got the movement, the voice, and the way she delivered the, “Do you want some breakfast?” line had me cracking up.
The costume design and set design were exceptional and really elevated the material.
Lizzie the Musical at Chance Theater is a fun rock n roll extravaganza with loads of style.