Lizzie Borden

In this rock-musical version, the ax is a guitar.

  • KILLER PERFORMANCE Fellner belts out a rock anthem

KILLER PERFORMANCE Fellner belts out a rock anthem

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

The initial incarnation of Lizzie Borden—a fetching, brawny rock musical with an all-female cast clad in both period and punk attire—took place nearly 20 years ago, long before Spring Awakening depicted 19th-century youths under the influence of modern-day music. But it’s impossible not to think of that breakthrough musical (seasoned with a sprinkling of Sweeney Todd) when listening to the show’s invigorating rock songs and smooth ballads by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner, which blend punk, heavy metal and grunge.

Although the real Lizzie was acquitted of parricide, this fictionalized account based on historical fact presumes her guilt but cuts her slack for emotional duress. When the murders occurred in 1892, Lizzie was a 32-year-old spinster living with her parents and sister (Lisa Birnbaum). Here, she’s a victim of sexual abuse, involved in a lesbian relationship with a neighbor (Marie-France Arcilla) and furious over her father’s will and his slaughtering of her beloved birds.

When Lizzie embraces her bad-girl self, it’s a feminist anthem as much as an emotional release from her confined life (literally, as she tosses off Bobby Frederick Tilley II’s period dress and goes goth). Jenny Fellner plays her with a mix of ennui and navete, as inner turmoil boils over into rage, but it’s hard to top Carrie Cimma’s sly Irish maid Bridget or her powerhouse vocals. The pivotal murders, staged behind a shower liner that’s soon spattered with blood, punctuate director Maner’s macabre and quirky approach. But the really killer stuff is the captivating score and the soaring voices singing along with it.—Diane Snyder

See more Theater reviews

Living Theatre. By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt. Dir. Maner. With ensemble cast. 1hr 40mins. One intermission.