BWW Review: LIZZIE at City-Theater
Aisle Say would never be so trite as to suggest the Victorian goth-rock musical LIZZIE, now playing 'live' at City-Theatre, is a 'killer' or 'cutting edge' or 'slays the audience'. Of course not. I am much too circumspect and erudite to cave to formulaic nonsense.
What other regional company could stage this boisterous rock opera? Director Michael Gray looks quite normal; a gentle sort. But what seethes inside his mind is not. His productions are rarely normal or gentle.
This show imagines ax murderer Lizzie Borden as a foot-stomping, head-banging hellion accompanied by 3 female compadres unfurling primordial wails recalling those '70's self-help groups that took you back to the shock of exiting from your mother's womb.
We see 4 supremely talented women who hold back nothing. They are in your face, they are spunky and they are unapologetic.
There is little dialogue. There must be intellectual engagement. One must focus on lyrics to understand the depth and breadth of the torment of these women. Lizzie (Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin) debuts with CTC. Her credits include Millie in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, a character as disparate to Lizzie as is Trump to Gandhi. Consider Scarlett Johansen in the film LUCY. McLaughlin displays that same blank stare of psychic desperation. In her solo "This Is Not Love", Lizzie's eyes glistened over. How do I know? I was 3 feet away from her. In her "Sweet Little Sister", one might characterize the song and the delivery as rock and roll epilepsy.
The maid Bridget (Kyleen Shaw) is Lizzie's interlocutor. You see, Mr. Borden made one, shall we say, life-altering mistake; re-marrying after Lizzie's mother died. Bridget, Emma and Lizzie hate her. Bridget suggests the drip drip drip idea of murder to our heroine, eventuating in the now legendary 40 whacks and then 41 more. Shaw's voice blends both rock and gospel. In her duet with Lizzie, "Watchmen For The Morning", I felt I was at a southern revival.
Alice (Grace Tarves) is Lizzie's next-door neighbor. Unfortunately for her, she saw Lizzie bury that VERY bloodstained dress. She lives through the ordeal by acquiescing to Lizzie's romantic persuasions, creating a smidgen of dyke heat. Alice received the greatest applause of Act 1 for her "Will You Stay". She has enormous range and power in such a petite frame.
In the ensemble piece "Mercury Rising" I saw rockers posturing and actors singing as a cross between Pat Benatar doing "Barracuda" and Gwen Stefani "Just A Girl", although in a punk, homicidal sort of way. Another tune, "Burn The Old Thing Up" had the 4 women gyrating like the ghoulish witches in KING LEAR.
The spike haired Emma (Jill Knapp) had the most defined rock voice. This show was made for her. She threw every nerve ending into "What The Fuck Now, Lizzie?" She nailed it and the audience ate it up.
Yes, there will be blood. It is collateral damage when one wields an ax, especially 81 times.
The music direction under veteran rocker Joe Trainor was excellent. 3 guitars, a cello, a keyboard and drum sandwiched and in full view of the audience. This is difficult music. Lauren Peter and Kerry Kristine did an excellent job on Victorian costuming.
This production continues the mission of CTC and admirably so. This group enriches our community, even with the necessary blood every now and then.
The Kenny Family Foundation is one of their sponsors. KFF is all over Delaware doing good things for us.
Only through Saturday. Online but I suspect there will be tickets at the door at Opera Delaware Studios. We should all be proud of all of them. Aisle Say certainly is.
Photo by Joe del Tufo of Moonloop Photography