When the 11th Hour Theatre Company premieres the goth-tinged “Lizzie” on Jan. 16 at Neighborhood House in Old City, the rocked-out musical comes with a boatload of history, both real and imagined.
Long before Charlie Manson’s dark angels and famed murderesses like Florida highway killer Aileen Wuornos, there was Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), the Fall River, Massachusetts, woman who won notoriety and infamy for being tried and acquitted for the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother. Not only did the (assumed) lady killer get her own rope-skipping nursery rhyme that was made popular after the trial (“Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.”), she eventually became the subject of two famous television movies: “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” a 1975 ABC network film with Elizabeth Montgomery, the comic star of the legendarily campy “Bewitched” and 2014’s Lifetime Network “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” with Christina Ricci in the title role.
“We watched that Elizabeth Montgomery movie as research and found it fascinating,” says Alex Keiper, the dynamic local stage actress and vocalist who has the title role in “Lizzie.” The musical stage play touched by all manner of cabaret, folk and goth rock was co-written by one time local musician Alan Stevens Hewitt (The Low Road) along with fellow composers/lyricists Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner.
“The overall Montgomery movie wasn’t great, in my opinion, but the Lizzie experts we spoke to from Fall River said that it’s the only movie about her and the subsequent trial that has real merit.” Keiper also says that those same Lizzie-ologists were thrilled about the 11th Hour musical, because many of the lyrics and dialogue were taken directly from the original court testimony of 1893, making the play spot-on in terms of accuracy.