New Line Theatre's LIZZIE Is The Rock Musical At Its Absolute Best

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Anna Skidis Vargas, Kimi Short and Marcy Wiegert in New Line Theatre's LIZZIE, 9/28 - 10/21, 2017. Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Greatest all-female rock band ever... go! The Bangles? Nope. The Go-Gos? Nah. Bananarama? Really? The Spice Girls? You’re not even trying. Pussycat Dolls? Not even close. Jem and the Holograms? Oooh, now you’re getting warmer. Jem and the Holograms' arch enemies, The Misfits? Hotter! The Runaways, which included Joan Jett and Lita Ford? Well OK, probably, but if the cast of New Line Theatre's hard rock musical Lizzie was an actual band they'd be number one with a bullet...or more accurately a hatchet. 

You didn't know there was a musical theatre show disguised as an Alice Cooper-style "concept rock" concert based on the infamous Lizzie Borden murders of the late 1800s? Obviously you owe it to yourself to see St. Louis' fearsome foursome of Anna "Lizzie" Skidis Vargas, Kimi “Bridget" Short, Larissa "Alice" White and, making her triumphant return after far too long of an absence on the New Line stage, Marcy "Emma" Wiegert in all their arena rock glory! Lizzie is, of course, Lizzie Borden, who allegedly murdered her incestuous father and manipulative step-mother with a hatchet. The police investigation into this grisly scene was arguably more horrific than the crime itself. Lizzie got away with it, and that's not a spoiler -- the story has been public knowledge for 125 years.

The elevated stage designed by Rob Lippert gives the ladies plenty of room to roam between the Borden house and the family barn while also conjuring images in your head of concerts that tell a bit of story, like you might see at a Primus or Rob Zombie show. You never see Mr. or Mrs. Borden except for portraits hanging on the back of the set, but you hear Lizzie sing a dark, helter-skelter tale of Daddy's darker impulses, which is more than enough characterization to make his murder at least plausibly justified. The lighting is rock concert dynamic, flooding Anna Skidis Vargas in red or strobes when she's cracking up, providing a realistic flaming barrel flicker when the sisters burn the evidence, and making Marcy Wiegert's sensational green hair even more electric. Costume Designer Sarah Porter, a rock star in her own right, outfitted this motley crew perfectly. Anna rocked a heavy black wig with a black leather dress that brought to mind vintage Ann Wilson from Heart, and occasionally a giant shoulder pelt from Game of Thrones, which somehow seems just that much more heavy metal. Kimi wore a black lace maid outfit that was somewhere between The Runaways and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Larissa’s lithe frame with a purple micro-miniskirt over latex shorts, finally answering the age old question, "What would David Lee Roth look like if he was a pretty petite girl with a big voice?" And Marcy stepped right out of Jem and the Holograms as the queen of glam rock, putting both The Holograms and The Misfits to shame.New Line Theatre's LIZZIE, 9/28 - 10/21, 2017. Graphics by Matt Reedy 

Again, there's not much mystery to be solved here. The fun is in watching these four supremely talented actresses pour everything they have into a collection of original songs that subtly evoke memories of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” Gerard McMahon’s “Cry Little Sister,” and classics women rockers like Heart and Lita Ford while never veering into parody or even obvious homage. The songs are terrific throughout but “”Sweet Little Sister” and “What the F*** Now, Lizzie?!” will stay with me for a long time, thanks in no small part to Marcy Wiegert’s commanding stage presence and powerhouse voice. That’s not to take anything away from Anna, Larissa, and especially Kimi, who marked her twenty-sixth New Line production with a performance that proved she still has as much vocal skill, comedic timing and abundant talent as anyone in town. It was great to see her in a higher profile role again. Larissa has been consistently excellent since I first saw her perform in New Line’s Bonnie and Clyde and this show was no exception. Anna Skidis Vargas, whom I believe I first saw in New Line’s Rent, has become an award-winning actress and is the founder and artistic director of Theatre Nuevo. When I first heard about Lizzie Anna was one of the first actresses I thought of. Fortunately, Mike Dowdy-Windsor was way ahead of me, and his vision has become one of the funniest rock musicals about horrific 19th century murders you could ever hope to see.

The New Line Band led by Sarah Nelson, with D. Mike Bauer, Jake Heberlie, Jake Stergos, Emily Trista Lane, and the unflappable Clancy Newell backs the ladies beautifully. I especially enjoyed Emily on the cello. Her instrument seemed to blend well with her bandmates' hard rockin' efforts while simultaneously cutting through that early MTV vibe with sinister chords to remind you that there was some seriously messed up stuff going on here, Two corpses decomposing on the dining room table in the sweltering summer heat while four freaks revel in a media circus probably isn't the right time for Billy Idol fist pumps and head-banging, but you're going to want to do it anyway.

So should you see it? Hell yes! I've seen professional bands play at major venues that weren't half as much fun as Lizzie. Some of them weren't even as good as Anna, Marcy, Kimi, and Larissa, and I'm not just talking about Nickelback. Director Mike Dowdy-Windsor has put together a hit show that will be talked about for years to come by anyone who sees it. Memorable songs belted out by four voices that would make "The Red Rocker" Sammy Hagar green with envy makes this production the must see event of the fall in St. Louis. Get your tickets now because I predict that the entire run of Lizzie will sell out as the buzz makes its way through St. Louis' ever-expanding theatre scene. 

Lizzie, a musical written and composed by Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, rocks the Marcelle Theater Sept. 28 – Oct. 21, 2017. Visit www.NewLineTheatre.com for more information, and get your tickets at www.MetroTix.com

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0