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Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Lizzie" @ Portland Center Stage

You know a production is strange when even the Director's Note says, "Whaaat? How's that going to work?"A musical about Lizzie Borden is weird enough on its own, but not entirely unheard of, I mean "Sweeney Todd" is based on fact, right? It's the "punk-rock musical" part that sends it into the stratosphere of bizarreness. Somehow it works, and I don't just mean that I enjoyed it, or that it managed to transcend the "Whaaat?" Factor. No, what I'm trying to articulate is that "Lizzie"succeeds in all of those ways,  and also pulls off a difficult tonal balancing act. Of course it's dark, and, as is to be expected, there's also a healthy dose of dark-humor mixed-in, culminating in a number with a giant blood-spraying axe that closes Act I, but there is also room for quieter, more serious numbers, and it turns out that those are the ones that become unexpected     

The band deserves special mention. I suppose that six musicians is a fairly large band, but the music is so...thumping that you'd expect a group twice that size.

Beyond the band, beyond the general fun of it all, the best part of "Lizzie" is that it seems to be a musical for people who don't particularly like traditional musicals (myself included). There's almost none of the Broadway Belting that even seeps into compositions by rock artists who should know better. This is a feat indeed.

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