Four women front a six-piece rock band and tell the story of Lizzie Borden,
America’s favorite double axe-murderess and Victorian hometown girl.
In 1892 on a sweltering August day in a small New England town, a well-to-do elderly man and his second wife were brutally murdered with an axe in broad daylight. Lizzie Borden, their youngest daughter, was the primary suspect. She was arrested and tried, but, with no witnesses to the hideous crime, she was acquitted. The murders remain unsolved to this day.
Though the actual history of Lizzie Borden provided the writers with inspiration and raw material, her legend, which comes down to us as a jump rope rhyme, is the imaginative core of LIZZIE:
History tells us Lizzie Borden was innocent, but the legend leaves no doubt about her guilt.
“Despite its riot-grrrl façade, Lizzie has a classical sense of form. The songs are not an intensification of feeling as they are in most musicals, but rather crucial to our understanding of the twists and turns of what we might initially think is a simple and well-known story. It’s rare for show tunes to require this much intellectual engagement, but every turn of phrase is a revelation. You know more, you feel more, and like Borden, you want to get closer to the abyss. Listen to her sing to pigeons in a barn loft—“The Soul of the White Bird”—and you’ll want to take her hand and gently place it on an axe.The nimble “Shattercane and Velvet Grass,” sung during a chance encounter between Borden and her family’s maid, Bridget, illuminates how easy it is to begin to think murder’s a swell idea. The song isn’t an explanation of Lizzie’s actions, but instead a demonstration of how a mind can slip into an idea, and how that slip leads to another slip, which leads to another, and another, and another, until: “Lizzie Borden with an axe/Gave her father forty wacks/When she saw what she had done/She gave her mother forty-one.” When I think of the tremendous scope of Lizzie, it’s hard to believe that there are only four characters. But again, it’s closer to Sophocles than Nirvana, all the way down to the brutal off-stage murders.”