Yesterday afternoon, a friend of ours sends me a message “Are you guys busy tonight?”. “Nope. What’s up?” I respond. How many times do all of us have a similar exchange?
What was up last night was the chance to go see the rock musical Lizzie put on by the 11th Hour Theatre Company. The show is at the end of its run – last show on Sunday, January 29. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience this unique take on the Lizzie Borden story.
Let’s start with the story of Lizzie Borden. I realize a number of you may not know it as it happened in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden was a 30-something woman, unmarried (shocking in that era) who lived with her father, step-mother, older sister and their servant. The Bordens were very wealthy as her father was a successful businessman – banking and other businesses – and he was “frugal” to a fault. It is said that Lizzie and her sister Emma felt quite a bit of animosity towards their step mother. Needless to say, the Borden household was not a happy one. On August 4, 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Borden were murdered by way of hatchet (19 whacks for Mrs. Borden and 10-11 whacks to Mr. Borden) in their home. Lizzie was accused and tried for the crime, which was more than scandalous as women were considered the lesser sex and rarely charged as murderers. She was acquitted due to lack of forensic evidence.
Imagine this tale told as a rock musical by Lizzie, her sister Emma, their servant Bridget (aka Maggie), and their neighbor Alice. Cool idea, right? Yes, most definitely yes. This idea was brought to life by the 11th Hour Theatre Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (http://www.11thhourtheatrecompany.org/lizzie/)
The venue is small – seating 100 on handmade risers facing a 3 level stage. First and second levels feature the set – simple and strategically placed minimal props to give the impression of the Borden home and barn. The third level (top) is where the band was located. And what a band they are – multiple electric guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and cello – excellently executing the music by Steven Cheslik-Demeyer & Alan Stevens Hewitt.
The story and songs were brought to life by the 4 characters – Lizzie Borden (Alex Keiper), Emma Borden (Cara Noel Antosca), Bridget Sullivan (Rachel Brennan) and Alice Russell (Meredith Beck). These 4 women could belt out a rock anthem type song one minute and then caress a heart wrenching ballad the next. Their harmonies were superb. And the ability to evoke a wide variety of emotions was strong and evident.
My husband and I don’t get to see much theatre as an audience member. We are typically the ones either behind the scenes or on stage for a show. This was a real treat to be able to just sit back and experience a production. Luckily, we had the opportunity to experience Lizzie.
All of this because someone asked – are you guys busy tonight?