LIZZIE BORDENRegional Premiere
Book by Christopher McGovern and Amy Powers
Music by Christopher McGovern
OhLook Performing Arts Center
Director – Jill Blalock Lord
Musical Director – James McQuillen
Set Design – Jill Blalock Lord
Lighting Design – Jill Blalock Lord
Sound Design – Jill Blalock Lord
Costume Design – Jill Blalock Lord
Lizzie Borden – Chandler Reeves
The Girl/ Young Lizzie – Grace Lord
Emma Borden – Christina Pattakos
Andrew Borden/ The Judge – Shawn Gann
Abby Borden – Kristin Spires
Bridgette Sullivan – Kaylan Buckley
Adelaide Churchill – Ellie Van Amerongen
Robert Flaherty – Jacob Harris
The State – Mitch Allison
Detective Fleet – Marcus Pinon
Mr. Lutton – Woodie Blackburn
Mrs. Helen Brayton – Pamela Langton
Mrs. Durfee – Lauren Franklin
Mrs. Bence – Nicole Choate
Reverend Kent – Wyatt Tackel
Phillip – Joshua Hahlen
Townspeople - Dixie Carroll, Kristy Conway, J. Dylan Gibson, Joshua Hahlen, Emma Lord, Justin Rowe, Wyatt Tackel, Taylor Wallis
Keyboards – James McQuillen
Reviewed Performance: 7/11/2014
Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Lizzie Borden is a musical journey through the life of her life. The story is told in multiple flashbacks that recreate events the day the crime was committed. It also includes glimpses of young Lizzie's life in Fall River, MA, interjected within the story. The writers do a fabulous job weaving the flashbacks throughout, giving you bits of information and insight into Lizzie’s home life, and there’s lots of reasons given as to why Lizzie did what she did.
Jill Blalock Lord takes on just about every job in this production. Sets, lights, sound, costumes, directing, she does it all. As part of Ohlook’s late night series, it plays directly after The Adams Family. This posed a lot of logistical problems for Ms. Lord. The cast and crew have little time between the end of The Adams Family’s 8:00 pm show and Lizzie Borden’s 11:00 pm curtain. Ms. Lord controls this by utilizing an open stage with a two story open set. Shutters on the top level and two rotating platforms on the lower created all the different settings with furniture and props. While going minimalistic with the set, costumes were a different story. Being a period piece, it could have been a terror to costume, but Ms. Lord does an absolutely perfect job. Lizzie’s blue dress worn through most of the musical was quite plain for the period but appropriate for Lizzie. Her mother Abby Borden’s black and white dress stood out, being more exquisite. Father Andrew Borden’s wardrobe was incredible, the fit on the suit and vest perfect. I couldn’t find any costume piece that looked out of place for the time period.
There are a lot of moments in the musical that I found myself asking, “Did that really happen?” Ms. Lord finds ways to enhance several scenes to exemplify certain situations. There were several scenes I found somewhat hard to watch due to the content. The use of stage blood comes into play quite a few times during the production. While it made the point I did somewhat find it slightly disturbing. There turned out to be a lot of adult content in the show but most disturbing for me was the reenactment of Lizzie’s father molesting young Lizzie. I don’t know if it was the fact that the scene happened right in front of our section that made me feel uneasy. While I might be a bit more reserved, I find Ms. Lord’s direction bordering on the extreme but spot on in emphasizing what Lizzie went through.
With all the extreme content and situations, one could almost forget this is a musical. James McQuillen leads the group as musical director. I was happy to see the music performed live instead of using canned music. What he accomplishes with the talent in the show is incredible. The music for Lizzie Borden is complicated and has moments where the harmonies can be tricky, but Mr. McQuillen directs this group so well that they handle the songs with ease. The entire ensemble sounded great and you would think there was a cast of seventy behind them, and while it sounded like seventy, it was only twenty four being led by the adult Lizzie Borden, Chandler Reeves. All I can say is wow - hers is one hell of a performance.
Her performance, vocally, is perfect in each song, which can’t have been easy with the amount of singing she has to do in the show. She sings thirteen out of the twenty one songs, not counting the six full company songs. Acting wise, several scenes have her move downstage for a monologue in a single spotlight. Her lack of expression during those scenes reflects that Lizzie believes everything she has gone through so far is normal. It became almost creepy. Ms. Reeves has several duets but “Fly Away” tops the charts. Her harmonization with young Lizzie is perfection. These two characters of such different ages play so well off each other, it is phenomenal to watch.
Young Lizzie is portrayed by Grace Lord, a fourteen-year-old with the voice of a seasoned actress. I was not expecting to hear such a wonderful voice out of such a young actress. More impressive is the way she portrays her role and handles the different situations through the show. Her character shows little emotion, as though she wasn’t all there, mentally. It is a great performance for someone so young.
Andrew Borden, father to Lizzie, is portrayed by Shawn Gann. You almost get two characters for the price of one. One minute he’s the nicest guy to his family, but with just a shift of his eyes and a slight change to his stance he becomes the neurotic father. Mr. Gann’s performance is intense to the point you want the father to die, his portrayal is that extreme.
Mr. Borden’s wife, Abby Borden, is the slightly insane character played by Kristin Spires. She’s another actor on my list of solid performances in this show. While not the first time Ms. Spires has played a crazy lady, this time she’s doing it in thirty pounds of clothing. Her character has a principal part in the musical but you don’t feel her impact until the vocal numbers. She has such a powerful voice that even singing with the ensemble hers is still distinguishing. Ms. Spires portrayal is truly a stellar performance from a veteran actress.
Lizzie’s sister Emma, who tries to help Lizzie get through the rough life she leads, is portrayed by Christina Pattakos.. My favorite part for her is during the song “The First Tea Party”. Her facial expressions through that scene are priceless. She is extremely animated onstage, which has to be a challenge with the amount of clothing she is wearing.
Funniest scene has to go to Kaylyn Buckley for her part in the number “The Maggie Work”. The song is written for her character to play on words and her delivery was spot on. The audience laughed every time the lights came back up on her. While her vocals are extremely good, this song banters back and forth between Ms. Buckley’s character, Bridgette Sullivan the maid, Lizzie, and a few others. The song is written to bounce in and out of three different scenes at the same time, so timing is critical and she hit her trigger line every time.
Jacob Harris portrays Robert Flaherty, Lizzie’s love interest, who was hired by her father as the farm help. Respectable dialect and accents can be difficult for any actor, but especially for young actors and actresses, and I thought Mr. Harris is about the best at it. His ability to show his caring and feelings for Lizzie just by the way he gazes at her is almost mesmerizing. He did become slightly pitchy during his duet, “So Easily”, with Lizzie, but the only reason I noticed is because everyone else is so accurate in their vocal performances.
Woodie Blackburn and Lauren Franklin portray Mr. Lutton and Mrs. Durfee, and these two actors are going to be seen around DFW a lot more often. Their characters are several scenes, especially those with musical numbers, and Mr. Blackburn and Ms. Franklin enhance all the scenes they are in. “Buttons” is the one song they have as a duet and it is just a blast to watch. As the song moves along I found myself highly entertained by the animation both actors put into the number.
While Lizzie Border doesn’t have all the glitz and glamour you might see around the DFW theatres, it does have a high quality cast of young and veteran actors that have gelled into a great group. As some of the content of this production can push the envelope rather far, it may not be for everyone, and the time slot may be a shocker for some of us oldsters, but boy, was it worth it to see such great, young, up and coming talent.
OhLook Performing Arts Center
1631 West Northwest Highway
Grapevine, TX 76051
Runs through July 19th
Friday - Saturday at 11:00 pm
Tickets are $15.00 each. For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.ohlookperform.com or call their box office at 817-421-2825.