REVIEW: LIZZIE the Musical with Forge Light Theatreworks
by Isaac Rosen
Thank God theater is back! With a new season has come a new company, Forge Light Theatreworks. Their mission statement has been to produce new and underproduced works that have yet to appear on Broadway, and to do so in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. I had the pleasure of seeing the second and final show of their inaugural season, LIZZIE, a musical about the infamous Lizzie Borden. Admittedly I didn’t know much about her story but my interest has only peaked in the days since seeing the show, this is wholly due to the fantastic storytelling done by the artists at Forge Light.
With Direction from the multitalented Ana High this ensemble of four women managed to turn some pretty serious subject matter ranging from molestation to murder, into a rocking good time.
All of whom held their own, but the one to watch is Jennessa Pearce who played our Lizzie. From the first to the last moments she is onstage you cannot take your eyes (or ears for that matter) off of her. With a soaring mezzo voice and a full belt (like, B.E.L.T) she took the audience under her wing and showed us a portrait of a desperate young woman way ahead of her time looking for ways to escape some truly grim circumstances.
Another standout was Abigail Kochevar who really nailed the dark brooding demeanor as Lizzie’s decade older sister. A versatile performer giving deadpan ghoulishness. But the sisters were at their best when together. It’s wickedly good fun to watch them plotting how to get away with murder in high octave harmony.
Now this production was not without its problems, most of which fell on the technical side of things. The costumes for one were not my favorite. They seemed to lack any kind of narrative cohesion that at times left them looking messy. Yes, it is a rock musical but what kind of rock are we supposed to be referencing. Elements of steampunk, late 19th century dress and various punk rock styles left us with a hodgepodge of studded shoulder pads, chainmail-shirts, shredded tutus and fringe gloves? I see the vision but the problem lies in the execution.
Also , at times it was difficult to decipher what the actors were saying due as they were drowned out by the band, which can be frustrating when you’re so enwrapped in the plot. PSA for all theatre companies forever and ever until the end of time, TURN UP THE ACTORS MICS!!
The show itself, while very good, wasn’t as rambunctious or rock and roll enough as it could have been. Sure, the music was loud but not loud enough, the actors were head banging but not with enough gusto. By the end I was left feeling like I had just seen something that was rock-lite. Abigail Kochevar was the only one who really seemed to embody that rambunctious spirit.
Despite these drawbacks I would say that Lizzie is a must see because the actual play is very good. It’s interesting and dark and really a very sad piece. It’s bloody good fun just in time for Halloween. Forgelight theatrical works is a necessary emerging voice in the Denver theatre scene and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next season!