Archikulture Digest

Lizzie Borden – A New Musical

Lizzie Borden – A New Musical

Book and Lyrics by Michael Wanzie

Music by Rich Charron

Directed by Kenny Howard

Musical Direction by John DeHaas

Starring Andrea Canny, Rebecca Fisher, Frank McClain

Wanzie Presents and Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL</strong>

Last year Casey Anthony got all the press but she’s destined for obscurity: no one has written a jump rope ditty about her yet. But Lizzie Borden is still on our minds, she “gave her mother 40 whacks” and THAT’S a line for Double Dutching. Lizzie (Canny) grew up in the mill town of Fall River in the late 1800’s with her penny pinching dad Andrew (McLain) and her older sister Emma (Fischer). Her real mom Sarah (Darby Ballard) died early on and Andrew eventually married Abbey (Lori McCaskill) more as a house maid than for any romantic reason. Andrew was wealthy yet the household was divided over who gets the inheritance and who mistrusts who and getting along nicely was not an option. While Andrew lives, Emma ineffectively locks her bedroom door and Lizzie shops for prussic acid. Who knew that cyanide was the best way to clean a sealskin cape? When the murders occurred, Lizzy was tried but acquitted and just like in the Anthony case the evidence was weak, testimony conflicted, and the whole case tried in the press to no one’s satisfaction.

Bracketed by syndicated newspaperman Joseph Howard (Justin Mousseau) this tale of an unhappy family does an excellent job of creating multiple suspects each with means, motivation and opportunity. Emma may have snuck back from vacation to do it, Lizzie found the bodies but conveniently missed the carnage, there’s a discarded bastard child William (David Dorman) and any number of dissatisfied customers of Andrew’s banking and business endeavors. After the trail we see Lizzie and Emma moving to a nicer house with indoor plumbing, but they too, fall apart over Lizzie’s relation with dissolute actress Nance O’Neil (Blue). This part of the show is much less interesting – once the trial is over the drama is spent and the denouement goes on far too long. Charron’s music is powerful and imposing and the truly memorable song is O’Neil’s “My Secret Song.” Other noteworthy music included “Lady in the Window” and the scene setting “Fall River”. The supporting cast was excellent, I give high marks to both Joe Swanberg and his mutton chops as well the touching suicide by Mr. Dorman.

There’s serious entertainment value here: a well-crafted story, nicely integrated music and a strong cast who deals well with the fluid story telling style. This show is a major triumph for Mr. Wanzie as a writer, he steps away from the broad drag based material he’s famous for and shows he can tackle a complex historical drama, get the facts correct and never fall into the lecture mode. This show is selling out; don’t wait to go see it.

For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net and to see what’s up with Wanzie Presents see http://www.Wanzie.com


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