Lizzie – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Time has proven again and again that musicals can be fashioned around any number of unusual and unlikely source materials: an ugly green ogre who lives in a swamp (Shrek), men and women who have tried and often succeeded in killing a president (Assassins), a Georgia factory owner Leo Frank accused of raping a teenage employee (Parade), an indestructible ship that sinks after striking an iceberg (Titanic), a trio of ethnic groups who are absorbed in the Great American Melting Pot (Ragtime) and a pair of scam artists who cleverly separate rich women from their wealth (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

Hold on to your trusty axe, there’s a new musical in town that is pushing that tool filled envelope even further afield with “Lizzie.” Already a ballet, opera, play, radio show, documentary, television program, novel, podcast, music and skipping rope nursery rhyme, “Lizzie” is now a rock concert in 40 whacks.” With music by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Tim Maner, and book by Tim Maner, Theater Works Hartford is now exploding with rage up to the rafters, and extending the show until October 29.

The critical question remains unanswered: who is Lizzie Andrew Borden and did she commit the horrendous crime of killing her father and step-mother with an axe? Did motivation of a stolen childhood, sexual abuse, a lose of her inheritance, a need for revenge, a troubled mind, a forbidden love all cause Lizzie to act? On August 4, 1892 in the family home, cast in shadows of black and white and grey, with a splash of alarming red blood, Mr. and Mrs. Borden met a grisly end.

A quartet of strong women belt out this tale: Nora Schell’s Bridget, the faithful and supportive family maid, Kim Onah’s Alice Russell, a neighboring friend of Lizzie’s and maybe much more, Courtney Bassett’s Emma Borden, the older sister who has lived behind locked doors the longest and can’t wait to escape and at the heart of the trouble Sydney Shepherd’s Lizzie who knows all too intimately that her pressure cooker life is bound to explode. Is Lizzie guilty or innocent of the crime she is accused of committing? Under the keen direction of Lainie Sakakura, you are invited to weigh the clues and evidence and determine the verdict for yourself, with startling musical direction by Erika R. Gamez, on a tight fitting stage designed by Brian Prather.

or tickets ($25-75), call Hartford Theater Works, 233 Pear Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at or Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Come early to view the gallery of artwork on Lizzie onsite.

Questions still swirl all these decades later about Lizzie’s role in this scenario of secrets, screams and scares. Perhaps it might inspire you to take a ride to Fall River, Massachusetts to visit the family museum and bed and breakfast. Maybe Lizzie’s ghost will make an appearance just in time for Halloween? Let this fine cast take you on a journey that will linger long after the last musical note punctures the ceiling.