Review: Lizzie Borden musical looks to make a killing in San Jose

If you know only one thing about Lizzie Borden, it’s probably that she killed her parents with an ax. After all, that’s what the popular children’s rhyme says. Borden was actually acquitted of the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother, but the case continues to fascinate and attract speculation more than a century later.

Now it’s even a rock musical. “Lizzie” started out as a four-song theater/rock concert piece written by Tim Maner with songs by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, and later expanded into a full musical with more music and orchestrations by newly added collaborator Alan Stevens Hewitt. San Francisco’s Ray of Light Theatre brought it to the Bay Area two years ago, and now San Jose’s City Lights Theater Company takes a whack at it for its South Bay debut.

We never actually meet the doomed parents in “Lizzie,” though Ron Gasparinetti’s fascinatingly fragmented set at City Lights (dominated by cubelike chunks of dark wallpapered walls) is bracketed by huge oval screens usually occupied by cameo portraits of the Bordens in Nick Kumamoto’s subtly shifting video design.

We see and hear everything through four young women. One, of course, is Lizzie herself, played by Hayley Lovgren in an agitated frenzy of fear and disgust about whatever it is her father does with her. “This is not love,” she sings in a desperate, disturbing lament. “I don’t know what it is.” It’s only after the murders that Lizzie begins to come alive, transformed as if a great weight had been lifted off of her.

We also meet her older sister, Emma, nearly always fuming with rage in Amy Soriano-Palagi’s fierce portrayal. Emma particularly hates their stepmother, whom she says is scheming to cut them out of their father’s will.

Neighbor Alice watches the odd goings-on next door keenly, not least because she has secret feelings of her own, which Sharon Lita conveys as with aching longing whenever her restrained Alice is alone with Lizzie.

Most amusing of all is Chloe Angst’s half-crazed, half-sardonic observer’s perspective as the household maid Bridget, called Maggie by the family because that was the previous maid’s name and they can’t be bothered to learn hers.

The show is extremely intense from the very beginning in executive artistic director Lisa Mallette’s staging, and it doesn’t let up. Deftly played by an onstage rock band led by music director Katie Coleman and engagingly belted out by the cast, the songs are bewitchingly catchy,

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

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