By BRIANA DETURO
Lizzie Borden, a mentally ill girl whose only friends included the pigeons in her parents’ barn, was the most shocking and talked about serial killer case in the 19th century. Lizzie’s father and step-mother, Andrew and Abby Borden, were found dead, slashed 40 times each with an axe, in their bed on Aug. 4, 1892. After this incident, police searched for evidence of the killer, but found nothing. Lizzie was put on trial for murder, where her fate lied with the townspeople of Falls River, Massachusetts.
Lizzie: The Killer Rock Musical tells this story unapologetically, with a bright, loud, and in your face performance. Running through Nov. 6 at the Straz Center, audience members have a chance to personally connect with Lizzie through her pain and confusion.
Lizzie Borden (Colleen Cherry), her sister Emma Borden (Heather Krueger) Lizzie’s friend Alice Russell (Christina Jane Capeheart) and Maggie the maid (Bridget Sullivan) are the show’s sole characters. Andrew and Abby Borden, the father and step-mother of the Borden sisters appear just as pictures on a screen above the stage. These actresses belted out high notes throughout the show, letting out their passion in the form of sex, rage and rock and roll. Particularly eerie is “Forty Whacks,” the song that starts and ends the musical forcing the audience to envision the slashes left in Lizzie’s parents.
Jaeb Theatre’s cabaret style provides an intimate feel, where viewers can sit back with a drink and be simultaneously creeped out, confused and aroused. Sitting up close allows the audience to see each actor’s facial expression and each vivid detail of the set, like the red elastic bands that tie Lizzie to the stage and snap back and forth in the cast’s tug-of-war. Lizzie’s anger is embodied in a steaming teapot, which is rolled out onstage. Bold and colorful fonts on prop books such as “The Holy Bible” and “Book of Poisons” are clear to see even from the back of the theater. Bright red, pink and purple strobe lights match the loud, powerful live six piece band, which puts the heavy metal feel of the musical to the full affect. Although this show takes place in the late 1800s, it rocks just as hard as any 21st century concert.
“Gotta Get Out of Here” is a powerful portrayal of Lizzie’s anger, shown through red strobe lights and the grit in Cherry’s voice. Lizzie’s friend, Alice Russell, tries her best to bring Lizzie back in from her mental breakdown using the musical’s unique red ropes. The band is suddenly loudest on bass guitar and drums, shocking the audience right after a soft ballad on sadness.
The show’s minimalist set shows how Lizzie Borden had almost nothing, which allowed her emotions and imagination to run wild. On-stage costume transformations subtly allow for the audience to understand each character’s growth and rebellion. The second half of the show has the characters changed into more modern and revealing costumes from the simpler and conservative Victorian dresses.
If you decide to see the show, make sure you are ready for a shocking story. Audience members tend to laugh nervously during the song “What the F**k Now, Lizzie?!” and hide behind their hands when Lizzie comes out from behind the set covered in blood with a twisted look on her face. For an old case, this show is anything but old-fashioned.