Music By: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics By: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Book By: Tim Maner
Distributed by: Broadway Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Who hasn't heard the story of Lizzie Borden in one form or another? A true story used to scare children into submission and made more mythical as the years pass, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murder of her father and stepmother in 1892. What is so captivating about this murder is the bloodiness and yet the lack of incriminating evidence against Lizzie Borden in the case. Despite the fact that an axe was used repeatedly on both victims, no blood was found on the youngest Borden girl. And even though Lizzie was acquitted of the murder her life was destroyed. And who doesn't know that little rhyme about Lizzie Borden and the 40 whacks?
Recently, Broadway Records announced the release of a CD and mp3 downloadable version of a new rock concept double album about Lizzie Borden and the events surrounding the murders of first Abbey Borden and then Andrew Borden that hot day in August 1892. LIZZIE is a re-imagination of the story surrounding the legendary axe-wielding murderess.
When I first received LIZZIE, I wasn't sure what I was getting into - a rock album about Lizzie Borden, a woman convicted of murder in the late 1800s? Really? But then, I thought back to a couple of musicals I enjoyed that I never thought would work like Bonnie & Clyde, Jekyll and Hyde, Sweeney Todd and more and I decided to put a hold on my misgivings until I had actually listened to the album. Boy, am I glad I did!
There are a number of stories, rumors and unanswered questions surrounding Lizzie Borden like did she really kill them, did she have help, were the Borden sisters abused, was Lizzie gay...so much speculation and so few answers. LIZZIE combines all the speculation into a story that found me sympathizing with Lizzie and Emma Borden despite knowing that the story created for this concept album is a re-imagination of the actual events as we know them.
LIZZIE paints a picture of two women who were abused by their father and kept locked away from everyone for years. Emma Borden (Storm Large) is seen as the tough old spinster while Lizzie (Carrie Manolakos) is seen as a fragile woman who talks to the pigeons she keeps in the barn. Things come to a head when Andrew Borden remarries and his new wife has him change the conditions of his will, leaving all his money to Abbey should he die. Emma is incensed and tells Lizzie that they must do something. She leaves to figure out just what that something might be.
Meanwhile, Lizzie has been involved in a forbidden affair with neighbor Alice Russell (Ryah Nixon) and is caught in the act by her father. It is with a mix of glee and horror that the maid, Bridget (Carrie Cimma), tells Lizzie just how her father reacted to having seen her and Alice together. We learn that his reaction is not only what spurs her into action, but what actually puts the idea of the axe in her mind. Emma returns to find Andrew and Abbey murdered, police interrogating everyone and Lizzie looking like the prime suspect .
The album takes us through the trial and acquittal and all of the hoopla surrounding the burnt dress, the lack of blood on Lizzie, the fact that there were two women present in the house and no one heard a thing, and more. And all of it is performed in the most amazing rock opera style with clever lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner and rocking music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt.
The performers are amazing, sounding just like the rockers they were born to be - check out Carrie Manolakos' version of Radiohead's Creep on YouTube and Storm Large with her band, the Storm Large Band. The harmonies are killer here and the lyrics are often hard-hitting and believably performed by all.
If LIZZIE were a Broadway musical, I would not hesitate to purchase tickets after listening to this album. LIZZIE is a brilliant re-imagination of the actual tale and a rocking good shocker of a time! If you are at all interested in the Borden sisters or are just looking for a different kind of rock opera, check out LIZZIE - you won't be disappointed.