A Killer Evening In The House Of Borden: Ray Of Light Theatre's Lizzie!
This Thursday, Ray of Light Theatre presented a one-night only event: Lizzie The Virtual Musical Experience!
The evening, hosted by James Monroe Iglehart featured a rebroadcast of ROLT’s 2015 production at the Victoria Theatre which marked the Bay Area Premiere of Lizzie. Alongside the filmed performance, the full original cast, band, and creative team reunited with the show’s writers for a live chat and new performances from the cast.
Lizzie takes the true-crime story of Lizzie Borden, who went to trial as the primary suspect for the murder of her father and stepmother in 1892, and presents it as a punk rock musical starring a cast of four powerhouse women.
The show has a score by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, with lyrics by Cheslik-DeMeyer and Tim Maner. The book was also written by Maner.
This filmed ROLT production was directed by Eliza Leoni, choreographed by Nicole Helfer, with musical direction by David Möschler.
The musical features an all-female cast including Jessica Corker as Emma, Elizabeth Curtis as Lizzie, Taylor Iman Jones as Alice, and Melissa Reinerston as Bridget.
Lizzie is one of the greatest historical musicals, and here’s why.
Like many musicals based in fact, some creative interpretation has to happen. But by adding the punk rock, girl-band lens, Lizzie can make these changes without the show being presented as straight facts or as changing the historical truth.
The story is also told cheekily, with fourth wall breaks; sharing the facts without dwelling too much on the heaviness of the crime on which it is based.
There’s something thrilling about a musical which presents female characters who would have been restrained by the time within they lived through contemporary music styles. It brings a level of honesty and grit to something which could otherwise be reserved.
Lizzie is about a lot of things, but it focuses on a brutal axe murder…
And what better way to share that level of emotion than rock music?
The score is powerful, thrilling, and at times hauntingly beautiful, providing a balance between the soft ballads and gritty rock numbers.
It also has one of the best opening numbers of all time.
Ray Of Light Theatre’s Lizzie has a clear vision which was well executed by all involved. This production was brought to life by a fabulous creative team led by director Eliza Leoni. Leoni’s staging is clean, and makes full use of the playing space while still providing moments of intimacy.
The show itself combines modern elements and a historical setting, and this production honours the era while feeling like a rock concert.
Nicole Helfer’s choreography is one example. Her use of arms and repetitive movement draw focus to the upper body, creating clean and exciting lines without having to deal with the restrictions of period clothing. Even the costuming (by Melissa Wortman) combined multiple styles, evolving from strictly period, to a steampunk mix of the two eras, then to a classic girl-group styling in the finale.
One of the most impressive elements in this archived production is the lighting design by Joe D’Emilio. This elevated the show’s concert style, transporting audiences from 1892 Massechushetts to a full-blown rock show. While using this epic element heightened the modern, concert feel, the softer moments, especially in blue and purple washes, enhanced the intimacy.
ROLT’s Lizzie was perfectly cast, showcasing four incredible women who are strong actors and even stronger vocalists. This cast’s connection to each other was as tight as their harmonies (which were FIERCE) and performed like a well-oiled machine.
Each actress brought so much energy to their roles with face-melting vocals!
Lizzie is not an easy show to sing, and these powerhouses made it look effortless.
As wonderful as all these performers are as individuals, the most exciting moments of the show were when all four came together to create something killer.
As previously mentioned, this wasn’t just a screening of a fabulous performance.
Ray Of Light Theatre arranged an entire evening, hosted by James Monroe Iglehart.
The experience began with pre-show trivia, and a live comments section where audience members tuning in from all over the world were encouraged to interact! Members of the cast and creative team were also in this virtual audience, providing the opportunity to learn more about the work that went into the show itself.
During intermission and after the screening, there were two live Q&A segments accompanied by musical performances from the original cast! One Q&A hosted the cast as well as a performance by Taylor Iman Jones, and the other featured a Q&A with the creative team and the show’s creators, plus a new music video from the original cast!
Iglehart was a charismatic and upbeat master of ceremonies, and a fantastic moderator, making sure everyone was engaged and had the chance to speak and share during the Q&A portions of the event.
Ray Of Light Theatre presented Lizzie as a wonderful and engaging experience which brought the theatre fans together from across the world. The evening truly showcased the sense of community and theatrical excellence which can be achieved in the virtual space.
If you’re looking for more on about Ray Of Light Theatre or Lizzie, be sure to follow these links:
Are you a fan of Lizzie? Leave a comment with your favourite song from the show!