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Review: LIZZIE from Just Us Girls & Co.

A killer show of a killer story in a killer production.

Review: LIZZIE from Just Us Girls & Co.
(Clockwise L-R) Jessica Low, Rachael Noll James,
Shannon Dowling, and Justine Stillwell in
Lizzie from Just Us Girls & Co.
Photo credit: Scott Breitbarth

Dear Readers, if you're not familiar with the rock musical "Lizzie" with music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt and Lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner then I pity you. This kick ass, girl power show has one of the most infectious scores that I've come across in years. But I can also offer you some good news, as theater company Just Us Girls & Co. have brought this rocking tale to Seattle and just in time it seems. Now some bad news, it's only running for two weekends, so I implore you to get your tickets now!

As the show says, "Let us take you to an August back in 1892 ..." but first I want to take you to an August back in 2011 when I was first introduced to this gem at the Village Originals Festival of New Musicals. I was blown away by this show then and even more so the following year when they brought it back for a longer run in their Beta series. So blown away in fact that I saw the show twice in one weekend. "But why did you not write about it then?" you may ask. Well, it was still a work in progress and that's against the rules. But now with this new production at The Give Inn in Ballard, I can extoll it's virtues to my heart's content.

If you haven't guessed from the title, the show follows the story of Lizzie Borden, the infamous nursery rhyme killer who

"... took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks,
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one."

But beyond just the murder, we follow Lizzie (Rachel Noll James) through her love, abuse, psychosis, and eventual trial with a delicious hard rock score, skillfully brought to us by music director Chris DiStefano and his killer band.

As I said, this show has some of the most memorable, will stick with you long after you leave, songs around. From the pulse pounding opening number you're delectably assaulted by some fantastic head bangers. And the story is artfully directed by Jessica Low, who also plays Lizzie's sister Emma and played Lizzie's friend Alice in the 2012 production I saw. So, it's fair to say she knows this show in and out and, as displayed in this production, knows how to tell the story how it needs to be told and in some ways better than I've seen. She doesn't shy away from the sexual abuse that Lizzie suffers which is so integral to the story and her motivation, yet never goes too far with it. Yet she somehow still manages to portray this alleged murderer as our heroine.

Beyond some stellar direction, Low and DiStefano, along with Sound Designer Chris Schuett and Technical Director and Lighting Designer Matthew Buckner have managed the impossible. The Give Inn is not a large space, yet they've kept the sound mixing almost perfect in this limited space with the six person band rarely overpowering the vocals of these merry murderesses. And when coupled with Buckner's lighting and the period specific yet alterable on the fly costumes from Dawn Janow, the show manages a fantastically ominous and sultry tone.

Review: LIZZIE from Just Us Girls & Co.
Jessica Low, Rachael Noll James,
Justine Stillwell, and Shannon Dowling in
Lizzie from Just Us Girls & Co.
Photo credit: Scott Breitbarth

But we cannot discount the talent of these four rockin' ladies. James traverses a fabulous arc in the show going from broken innocent to psychotic anti-hero with seeming ease. Low, as the elder sister too brings in a dangerous woman not to be trifled with and still keeps her grounded. Justine Stillwell as Alice manages a sweetness and friendliness that she turns on a dime when she comes to terms with her own betrayals. And last but certainly not least, Shannon Dowling as the maid Bridget, not only brings in her own brand of malevolence but also some of the hilarious side eye and comic relief of the piece. And all four women, have voices that could pierce your soul. Just don't piss them off.

With the recent events from the Supreme Court rulings, last night's opening night had an extra touch of female ferocity that I'm sure will last for the entire run. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Just Us Girls & Co. production of "Lizzie" a "put down that ax and just buy your tickets already" YAY+. The events of the world and the summer heat may be getting to you, but this show is the perfect remedy allowing a bit of catharsis for a short while. Do NOT miss it!

"Lizzie" from Just Us Girls & Co. performs at The Give Inn through July 2nd. For tickets or information visit them online at www.justusgirlsco.com.




From This Author - Jay Irwin

         Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years.  He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting... (read more about this author)


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Review: LIZZIE from Just Us Girls & Co.
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Dear Readers, if you’re not familiar with the rock musical “Lizzie” with music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt and Lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner then I pity you. This kick ass, girl power show has one of the most infectious scores that I’ve come across in years. But I can also offer you some good news, as theater company Just Us Girls & Co. have brought this rocking tale to Seattle and just in time it seems. Now some bad news, it’s only running for two weekends, so I implore you to get your tickets now!