Review: LIZZIE: THE MUSICAL at Austin Playhouse Rocks!

The hottest ticket in town, now playing though July 30th

By: Jul. 17, 2023
Review: LIZZIE: THE MUSICAL at Austin Playhouse Rocks!
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“Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one.”  - Lizzie: The Musical

In a daring and audacious theatrical rendition, Lizzie: The Musical takes audiences on a spellbinding journey that reimagines the infamous Lizzie Borden murders of 1892. Written by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt, and Tim Maner, this punk rock opera pulsates with a score that delves into the enigmatic mind of Lizzie Borden. Featuring songs like "The House of Borden," "This Is Not Love," and "Gotta Get Out of Here," the musical speculates the events that may have led to the murders, leaving us questioning if the motives were as simple as teenage revenge or the consequence of years of overwhelming oppression and sexual abuse. Gripping, powerful, and unapologetically rebellious, the musical offers a unique perspective on this dark chapter in history.

Review: LIZZIE: THE MUSICAL at Austin Playhouse Rocks!
Stella Frye-Ginsberg, Lizzie: The Musical
PC: Glenda L. Wolfe

In Act I, the score and lyrics evoke a somber and romantic atmosphere, eloquently portraying a tale of parental abuse, shattered dreams, and forbidden love. The language used reflects the societal limitations imposed on women during that era, as the characters navigate their constrained lives. The costumes mirror this somber tone, with their restrictive and subdued design. Together, these elements immerse the audience in Lizzie's pain and offer insight into the events that culminate in the infamous murders. As Lizzie counts down the days until the trial, a glimmer of hope emerges, fueling her desire to break free from her oppressive existence.

In Act II, a noticeable transformation occurs, reflected in the edgier costumes, bold lyrics ("What the f*ck now, Lizzie?", "Burn the Old Thing Up", "Questions Questions"), and a revitalized aesthetic of the show. Lizzie undergoes an empowering evolution that is not only reflected in the lyrics but also in the demeanor of all the characters, their interactions, and their striking costumes. 

This is Doctuh Mistuh’s first production in Austin after a long hiatus and we are glad the band is back together! Under the expert direction of Michael E. McKelvey, this production of Lizzie: The Musical delivers theatrical brilliance. With a formidable all-female cast that commands the stage, a stunning set design that captures the suffocating atmosphere of the Borden home, and an on-stage band that amplifies the raw emotions of the performers, it is a must see theatrical experience.

Stella Frye-Ginsberg delivers a magnetic performance as Lizzie, capturing the complex layers of her psyche with intensity and vulnerability. Her powerful voice and commanding stage presence compel the audience to empathize with Lizzie's journey, leaving them haunted by her ambiguity.

Leslie Hollingsworth brings an equally impressive performance as Emma, Lizzie's older sister. With remarkable vocals and a nuanced portrayal, she infuses Emma with a hint of jealousy and manipulation in her interactions with Lizzie, leaving the audience questioning the extent of Lizzie's manipulation or sociopathy.

Libby Detling shines in the role of Bridget "Maggie," the maid, showcasing her comedic timing and powerful vocals and providing moments of levity amidst the darkness. Her brilliant performance gives audiences permission to laugh out loud amidst the tragic events  being presented on stage.

Review: LIZZIE: THE MUSICAL at Austin Playhouse Rocks!
Libby Detling and Stella Frye-Ginsberg, Lizzie: The Musical
PC: Glenda L. Wolfe

Maryanna Tollemache's portrayal of Alice adds another layer of complexity to the imaginative narrative. As Lizzie's lover, she raises intriguing questions about the extent of her influence on Lizzie's actions. Tollmache's powerful vocals command attention, but it is her nuanced expressions and subtle gestures that truly captivate, making the character even more compelling and intriguing.

The clever costumes designed by Genda Wolfe take center stage, skillfully reflecting the emotional journey of Lizzie Borden throughout the narrative. Initially, Lizzie is portrayed in restrained and conservative attire, symbolizing her oppressive environment and societal expectations. However, as the story unfolds and Lizzie's turmoil intensifies, the costumes undergo a transformation, shedding their constraints and embodying her liberation. The evolving costumes serve as a visual representation of Lizzie's personal growth and newfound freedom.

Lizzie: The Musical gives us an imaginative version of the gruesome murders of 1892, a brilliant punk rock score that screams “female empowerment”, an all-female cast with vocals that are out of this world, and a kick-ass band that envelopes the audience in the tension and the drama unfolding on stage. What else do you need to run and get your tickets before the ax drops? 

Review: LIZZIE: THE MUSICAL at Austin Playhouse Rocks!
Stella Frye-Ginsberg and Maryanna Tollemache, Lizzie: The Musical
PC: Glenda L. Wolfe

Lizzie: The Musical

Directed by Michael E. McKelvey

Now playing through July 30th, 2023

THU-SAT at 7:30pm

SUN at 2:00pm

Austin Playhouse

504 W 22nd Street

Austin, TX


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