‘Lizzie’ rocks its way to Dayton: Musical ‘is all about women being silenced’

The notorious life of Lizzie Borden, infamously charged with the killing of her father and stepmother in 1892 Massachusetts, arises as a female-driven rock musical aptly titled “Lizzie,” which has its regional premiere courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company through Sunday, June 30, at the Loft Theatre.

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Written by composer/lyricist Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, composer Alan Stevens Hewitt, and lyricist/librettist Tim Maner, “Lizzie” details various aspects of Borden’s controversial account, which became a media sensation as her trial grew in curiosity and intrigue. As told by four actresses, her story, albeit shocking, is not without critical, significant emotional themes such as abuse and despair.

Nearly 10 years ago, Human Race Artistic Director Kevin Moore saw a portion of the show at the National Alliance of Musical Theatre Conference in New York City. He became an immediate fan, but was unsure if the timing was right for the company and its audience. He’s happy to report the wait was worthwhile, especially since the show is still relatively fresh, having only played a few theaters in the U.S., in addition to European productions in Denmark and London.

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“At the time (I) thought it might be too aggressive for Dayton,” Moore noted. “I am so pleased that our audience has grown and become much more accepting, which is why we excitedly put it on our season.”

“This musical (seeks to address) what prods and provokes someone to do something of this (magnitude),” added director Jamie Cordes, a Human Race Resident Artist who notably starred in the Race’s “Sweeney Todd.” “Hopefully the audience will have an emotional connection to the characters.”

The cast

New York-based actress Deanna Giulietti will make her Human Race debut in the titular role having previously appeared in the international tour of “Rent” and the New York regional premiere of “Heathers the Musical.” Wright State University musical theatre alumna Natalie Bird also makes her Human Race debut in the role of Emma, Lizzie’s sister. Leslie Goddard, most recently seen as Georgie in the Human Race’s “The Full Monty,” portrays Bridget, Lizzie and Emma’s maid. Michaella Waickman, a WSU musical theatre major notably seen this season as Fredrika in “A Little Night Music,” portrays Alice, Lizzie’s friend and neighbor.

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“‘Lizzie’ feels especially timely given what women are currently dealing with,” said Bird, memorable in WSU’s “States of Independence” and “And the World Goes ‘Round: The Songs of Kander and Ebb.” “Our rights as women feel very uncertain. ‘Lizzie’ is all about women being silenced and the rage finding its way out no matter what. I hope audiences leave the show talking about the real case of Lizzie Borden, a fascinating rabbit hole, but also about how these themes never leave us. They just come dressed in different fashion.”

The music

Cordes, who recently visited the Borden home in Fall River, Mass., a home that doubles as a museum and a bed and breakfast, says the tuneful score recalls rock legends such as Pat Benatar, Heart, Joan Jett and The Runaways, as well as more contemporary groups such as Bikini Kill. Human Race Resident Artist Jay Brunner serves as music director. Katie Johannigman provides choreography.

“The music will definitely get into your soul,” said Cordes, who staged a vocally stunning local premiere of “If/Then” at WSU this season starring Rachel Mary Green, the “Lizzie” understudy. “There are big, exciting numbers, but also very effective ballads. All of our actresses understand the punk/rock style of this score, and our Lizzie, Deanna Giulietti, is a very special, authentic rock singer. She makes some incredible sounds while still being clear in the diction and the text.”

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“This score is rad,” Bird exclaimed. “It’s very ‘80s rock, hard hitting and unapologetic. What a perfect way to show how these women want to express their feelings. (The ‘80s was) also a time in music where women were moving to the forefront and refusing to be cute and pleasant. You will leave singing the songs and you will feel like you’re at a rock concert.”


What: "Lizzie"

Where: Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

Cost: $37 for adults; $34 for seniors; $19.50 for students. Prices vary depending on performance date. Select side-area seats available for $14 and $27 at all performances. Military discounts are also available.

Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit humanracetheatre.org or ticketcenterstage.com

FYI: There will be a post-show discussion following the June 23 performance. Patrons are advised the show is rated PG-15 and contains strong language as well as references to abuse, murder and sexual situations.

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