The Beck Center/BWU ‘Lizzie The Musical’ is a cut above
“Lizzie Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks”...you know the rest.
In the late summer of 1892 Lizzie Andrew Borden was tried and acquitted of the August 4th ax murders of her father, Andrew, and step mother, Abby. Since that time the crime and trial has been depicted in numerous films, stage productions, literary works and folk rhymes as well as a currently running rock opera.
The Beck Center for the Arts in collaboration with the Baldwin Wallace Musical Theatre Program are staging a production of the Stephen Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt’s “Lizzie The Musical”.
No bones about it, Lizzie TM graphically tells us through a collection of rock songs why she did it, what she did it with, when she did it, and how she did it. Nothing is left to the imagination including a murder scene just before intermission where Lizzie goes crazy and annihilates two blood filled watermelons that have silhouettes of her parents on them. As a comedic break when the house lights come back on a team of four in hazmat suits arrive on stage to clean up the carnage.
Lizzie (Jessie Kirtley) lives with her sister Emma (Autumn Key), her father Andrew (with whom she shares her middle name with), step mother Abby and their live in maid, Bridget (Colette Caspari), who everyone calls Maggie. There is also a “close” friend of Lizzie’s, Alice Russel (Andie Peterson). At the time of the trial there is wide ranging speculation about the murders. It is thought that the two sisters consider their despised step mother a gold digger even though their father was a penny pinching miser (there was no indoor plumbing and food was kept over for days until used up).
The will had recently been changed cutting out the girls and leaving the entire estate to the wife. Andrew recently killed Lizzie’s small flock of pigeons with an ax without asking her. There are rumors of an incestuous relationship between father and daughter and accusations that Lizzie and Alice are lovers...just one big happy family. As the case comes to trial Lizzie is able to convince the other girls to help her get away with murder through bribes, threats and promises of love.
In spite of the grim subject matter there are quite a few good points concerning this production. For one thing, the six piece orchestra is amazing. They really rock the joint which is no small feat in the Senney Theater. The actors really throw themselves into their roles. There are actually two separate casts. The “Blood Cast” consists of Alexa Lopez as Lizzie, Kris Lyons as Emma, Gracee Street as Bridget and Audrey Hare as Alice who perform on February 11th, 13th, 17th, 19th, 25th and 27th. “Axe Cast” (the one that I saw) is made up of Jessi Kirtley as Lizzie, Autumn Key as Emma, Colette Caspari as Bridget and Andie Peterson as Alice and will be performing on February 10th, 12th, 18th, 20th, 24th and 26th.
The music is what one would expect from a rock opera...loud and boisterous. At times Director Victoria Bussert really lets the girls cut loose and it gets a bit shrill but that is all part of the fun. The costume design by Charlotte M. Yetman runs all the way from traditional demure turn of the last century dress through sexy dominatrix to modern rock star dress regalia.
Scenic Designer Jeff Herrmann has come up with a bare bones stage with the frame of a house that has two electric guitars forming the roof along with cutouts of pigeons and pears (trust me it fits in with the story) in which the orchestra is seated behind in full view. Herrmann does double duty as the lighting designer which is excellent as well. Carlton Guc has conquered the sound problem inherent with Beck by adding volume...lots and lots of volume! It works. Choreographer Gregory Daniels makes good use of what few props there are (especially a large wooden chair) adding a new dimension to the work.
The awesome orchestra is made up of Matthew Webb (Keyboard/Conductor), Michael Simile (Guitar I) Jesse Hodgson (Guitar II/Keyboard), Jason Stebelton (Bass), Bryce Kessler (Cello/Percussion) and Alex Drews (Drums/ Percussion).
For those of you who love to flock to the “slasher movies” this show is right up your alley. If you like rock and roll, all the better. Rather than a “who done it” it’s a “she done it” but you get to see how she got away with it. It’s blood, lust, sex, crazy family and murder all rolled up in a big rock and roll package. Rock On!
“Lizzie The Musical” will be on stage in the Senney Theater, Beck Center for the Arts located at 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio. For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.beckcenter.org or call (216) 521-2540 x10.
For information concerning the current Beck Center for the arts Covid protocol go to https://beckcenter.squarespace.com/new-page-1