The 13th Floor

LIZZIE: A Punk-Rock Musical About The Infamous Lizzie Borden

One humid morning in 1892, a prominent businessman named Andrew Jackson Borden and his wife Sarah Anthony Borden were brutally axed to death in their home. Their young daughter, Lizzie, was the prime suspect in their deaths and the trial became a nationwide media sensation. Over a century later, Lizzie Borden remains one of the most well-known legends in American true crime. “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty one” is arguably as well known as “ring around the rosie.” The tale of Lizzie Borden has been dissected for decades and her story has been told in multiple movies, television shows, and documentaries. But the tale of Lizzie Borden is now being told in a manner as never before. Witness, LIZZIE: an all-female punk-rock musical.

What started out as a four-song experimental theater/rock show hybrid for the 1990 American Living Room festival (written by Tim Maner with songs by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer) has now grown into LIZZIE, a full-score musical with additional songs and orchestrations by Alan Stevens Hewitt. Unlike the traditional musical theatre fare, LIZZIE is a biting retelling of a classic tale dripping with sexuality, deceit, and brutal, bloody murder presented by four rock & wailing women at the front of a six-piece band. The show’s description calls itself “a new American musical with a sound owing less to Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber than to Bikini Kills, The Runaways, and Heart.”  LIZZIE is one part classic slice of Americana, one part riot grrl revolution. Songs like “This Is Not Love,” “Forty Whacks,” “What The Fuck Now, Lizzie?” and “Into Your Wildest Dreams,” are all true-crime ear worms you can’t help but sing along to…even when you realize the impeccable vocal ranges of these women are tough to match.

Audiences and critics alike have been loving LIZZIE, with performances currently scheduled for San Jose, California, Madison, Wisconsin, St. Louis, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. But the music isn’t the only thing punk-rock about LIZZIE. For the unaware, getting the rights to put on a production of a musical is usually a wildly expensive and tedious process. LIZZIE is completely different. The licensing rights are available directly from the creators of the show, themselves, as well as the sheet music for anyone looking to perform individual pieces for auditions or cabarets. If the success of HAMILTON has shown us anything, it’s that audiences are thirsting for newer ways to produce and perform the “great American musical” in order to appeal an to increasingly diverse and cultured society. The story of Lizzie Borden could have been a stiff, matter-of-fact musical in period-appropriate costuming, but LIZZIE turned it into a rage-fueled frenzy of lust, angst, and mayhem…perhaps being the first interpretation of the story to tap into how the young Lizzie Borden was actually feeling, rather than attempting to speak on her behalf about her parents’ murders.

Taking inspirations from rock concept albums like “The Wall,” “Tommy,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” there is a studio album of the show’s music featuring Carrie Manolakos (known for her viral cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”) as Lizzie Borden. Click the link above to hear the killer ballad “This Is Not Love” and be prepare to be scream-singing along in the car for the next two weeks.

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