Monday, November 27, 2017

Review of Firebrand Theatre's Lizzie

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Lizzie. It was directed by Victoria Bussert and the music direction was by Andra Velis Simon. The movement director was Jon Martinez. The music was by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt. Lyrics were by Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner. The book was by Maner. It was about Lizzie Borden (Liz Chidester) who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother and about the reason why she did it and the relationships she had--with her girlfriend, Alice (Jacquelyne Jones), her sister, Emma (Camille Robinson), and their maid, Bridget (Leah Davis)--and how they were affected by her trial. It is about justice, love, and standing up for yourself. I thought this was a super fun show and I loved the performances and the songs. It is dark and reminded me of a female, real Sweeney Todd. It was altogether a really great show.

This is a rock musical. There were a lot of different types--ballads, metal, punk--and each song worked with the story and the song's genre. There are a lot of catchy songs with great lyrics in the show. My favorite song was "The House of Borden" because the melody was really catchy and it got stuck in your head, but not in an annoying way. It was sort of like an explanation song; it was telling you all the stuff you need to know, but in an interesting way. I love this song very much. Everyone was super into it. They were singing their hearts out and it sounded amazing. The song was led very well by Bridget, who did a really good job at being both funny and menacing. This song is very driving, really fast-paced. Everything happens very quickly and they get a lot done very quickly. I think doing exposition this way is really useful. If all the background was just spoken, it wouldn't have been as intriguing. I wouldn't have been smiling all through the exposition! "What the F--k Now, Lizzie?" was another great, catchy song. It is about when Emma comes home and finds out their stepmother and their father are dead. She is mad at first, but she realizes she shouldn't be mad because now she is going to get a lot of money from her father's death and he won't be hurting them anymore. The vocals on it were really great. The song is sort of like their pact that they are going to help each other, even though Lizzie killed their father.

"This Is Not Love" leads into "Gotta Get Out of Here," and there is such a drastic difference between the two songs. One of them is very meek and sad and helpless and the other one is very angry and determined. The are both reactions to Lizzie's father raping her. They are really great songs because they are showing the emotional rollercoaster of the same events. The first song is really heartbreaking, and the second is really heartbreaking, but in a different way because she is really lashing out at people and she doesn't know what to do except to get out of there as soon as possible, and she can't get out of there at the moment. I think the actor does a great job showing where Lizzie snaps between the songs.

Alice sang a song about how she had been watching Lizzie for a very long time and was in love with her called "If You Knew." She is asking Lizzie to share her secrets with her, but she can't tell her her own. I thought that was a really good song because it was sung beautifully and it really showed how much Alice loved Lizzie and would do anything for her at the beginning of the show. It is sad to see how Lizzie breaks that trust between them later because she has done something terrible and Alice doesn't want to be a part of that. Once they start the relationship, they have this really sweet song together "Will You Stay." Alice is being so kind to Lizzie and trying to help her. And it is really sad how what Alice thinks she wants, Lizzie, ends up betraying her even though Alice has been so good to her. Lizzie lies to her and makes Alice help her even though she doesn't know what is really going on. The song shows the betrayal starting, so even though it sounds like a sweet song, once you know that Lizzie is lying, it is not so sweet anymore. Alice's devotion is performed very well; she is the least messed-up character in the show and I think seeing her become more messed up during the show is just a really cool thing to watch, and the actor shows you how much she's changed effectively.

The last song of the first act, "Somebody Will Do Something," is where Lizzie kills her stepmother and her father in watermelon form. It is a very scream-y punk song where she grabs her axe and starts hacking up these watermelons, spraying the front row with watermelon blood. It smelled like watermelon in there then, which was also a plus. To have no one playing the parents, it makes it so you can make it more crazy. She just seems like a maniac to see her hacking at a watermelon when, if it was a person, it would be long dead. It makes it so you don't have to have sympathy for the parents. I think for this play that is good because the point of the play is Lizzie's empowerment and how much murder is her only way out. In a real-life situation you would definitely want to have sympathy for people who are getting murdered, but in this situation you are supposed to be rooting for Lizzie even though she is a murderer. It is about Lizzie taking control of her life and saying that she is going to get out of there and is tired of being pushed around.

People who would like this show are people who like feminist rock musicals, heart-wrenching songs, and watermelon blood. I think people should definitely definitely definitely go see this show. It has a great score and it is performed beautifully. I loved it!

Photos: Marisa KM

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