Monday, June 30, 2014

The Music Man—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Meredith Willson’s great, Americana musical is brought to life at the Broadway Rose Theatre Company in the Deb Fennell Auditorium at 9000 SW Durham Rd. in Tigard.  It was written by Willson and story by he and Franklin Lacey.  It is directed and choreographed by Peggy Taphorn with musical direction by Alan D. Lytle.  It will be playing through July 20th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-620-5262.

This is Willson’s grandest accomplishment and one of the best musicals ever.  He only wrote one other show that had any major success, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, but this is his crowning glory.  Robert Preston pretty much owns the role of Prof. Harold Hill, having done both the Broadway and movie presentations.  But the story is pure Americana, telling of “simpler” time and place, the mid-west, Iowa, small town, in the early 1900’s.

The writers, Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, et. al.) and Rod Serling (some Twilight Zone episodes), too, waxed nostalgic about a time, long ago and far away, a not-so-easily forgotten past in a place called…Childhood, in small-town America.  A land where people actually talked in person to each other, one-on-one and there, entertainment came almost solely from their imaginations—a stick, became a magic sword; a bike, a fierce horse; and a blanket tied ‘round the neck, transformed you into a super-hero, a caped crusader; et. al.  The choices were endless because there is no boundary to one’s imagination.

Would I exchange that for the electronic, concrete jungle we now call civilization?  In a heartbeat!  And this production will transport you very ably for almost three hours onto that magic carpet and whisk you away to that abandoned lore.  Don’t let your Tomorrows pile up, as Hill professes, into empty Yesterdays.  Don’t let “Progress” overrun you, but take the beast by the horns and make it do your bidding.  It is within your power, and this show just might create that springboard for your journey.

Now, down off my soapbox (and if you don’t know the reference for that phrase, you do need a dose from the Music Man) and to the story.  The time, as mentioned, is a small town in America, River City, Iowa (Willson was an Iowan), around the turn of the 20th century.  According to the story, the Iowans of this burg have no imagination, everybody knows everybody else’s business, and things have to be proven to them before they’ll believe anything.

Into this sleepy, little village appears Prof. Harold Hill (Joe Theissen), purported to be a band director, akin to a John Philip Sousa.  In reality, he’s a con man, attempting to bilk these good folk out of their hard-earned money for band uniforms and instruments for their kids.  And he is willing to organize and teach them how to play them via his revolutionary, “think system” (you simply think the music and it happens).  Stories are peppered with his ilk, ranging from the lovable, Prof. Marvel (the Wizard) in Baum’s The Wizard of Oz to that rascal, Starbuck, in The Rainmaker.

Hill slowly weaves his wily web through the Mayor (Thomas Prislac, Jr.) and his wife (Rachelle Riehl), the school board (Joey Cóté, Thomas Slater, Mont Chris Hubbard & Bobby Jackson) and most of the townfolk until he comes to a roadblock in the guise of the librarian, Marian (Chrissy Kelly-Pettit).  She also has a stubborn, Irish Mom (Annie Kaiser) and her little brother, ten-year-old, Winthrop (Josiah Bartell), who is very shy and has a lisp.  Hill’s confederate in town, Marcellus (Norman Wilson), attempts to clue him in on the populous, but it will take Hill, alone, and all his skills to woo this elusive lady.

He does manage to get the town working together for the common good.  The school board, who never agrees on anything, form a Barbershop Quartet.  The mischievous boys manage to band together to form a band.  Winthrop finds his voice.  Marian takes a chance on romance.  And the con man falls under his own spell and is, likewise, smitten.  The town and perhaps, we too, learn a valuable lesson about magic, that it doesn’t fall from the sky but is already here, within us, waiting to be unleashed by the…Music Man!

A side note, it is good to see a production interpret the original intent of the story, as usually the boys come out dressed up and playing perfectly the rousing finale’.  In this one they are (intentionally) lousy.  But the magic is in the fact they have bonded together as a community and the Youth have a more positive attitude toward life.  Thank you, Broadway Rose, for emphasizing that.

The power of this story and the production is not just in the script, but in the music, in about two dozen songs and a cast of about forty, as well as a live orchestra of about a dozen.  There really is not a bad song in the whole of it.  My own personal favorites are Ya Got Trouble, Goodnight My Someone, Till There Was You, and, of course, the rousing, Seventy-Six Trombones.  Lytle’s group of musicians does not overpower the singers, which often happens in musicals, so they are to be commended.

The singing and dancing by the entire cast was spot on.  Taphorn has done an amazing job of both the direction and choreography of this production.  It must have been a grueling schedule for all, but with Taphorn at the helm, everything comes across flawlessly.  Bravo!  And the set (and set changes) and costumes, by FCLO Music Theatre, are super.  The terrific train at the opening starts the play off with a roar, and it never lets up.

Theissen, as Hill, is a fine singer and has all the charm and gift-of-gab the role calls for.  He may not have the roguishness of Preston, but he is a convincing Hill.  Kelly-Pettit has an extraordinary voice and easily sells the songs she trills.  And Kaiser, as her Mama, finds the right acting and musical notes in her presentation.  There is not a weak performance from any of the rest of the cast or ensemble.  And the three featured children, Bartell, as Winthrop, Amaryllis (Makenna Markman) and Gracie (Raeanne Romito) match the adults for talent in their roles.  They hold their own onstage and seem to have the “right stuff” to continue in this field.

I highly recommend this production, but get there early, as their parking lot is limited.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons Learned—Hollywood Theatre—NE Portland

Twice…Upon a Time

This short film, produced by Heather Henson (daughter of her famous father, Jim, creator of The Muppets), directed by Portland’s own, Toby Froud (son of the famous puppet designers, Brian & Wendy), and was shown only once at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.  This and other short films are in association with IBEX films (local producer, Sam Koji Hale & sculptor, Sherri Morgan)) and Handmade Puppet Dreams (Heather Henson).  For more information go to their site at or see a clip from the film at

Once upon a time, in an alternate world, there was an evil, Fairy King, who was lonely for a son.  So he kidnapped a baby from the human world.  But this act set off a chain of events that would alter both these universes.  Fast forward almost thirty years and that kidnapped baby, Toby Froud, is now a budding filmmaker, recreating the magic that was Labyrinth and Dark Crystal and doing homage to his parents and Mr. Henson in Lessons Learned.

Is the film a reflection of Froud’s devotion to the Masters who started it all?  The characters bear a striking resemblance to those in the above mentioned two films.  And the relationship of the boy, in the film, to his Grandfather, is definitely reverential.  The child is given a magic box on his birthday, in which he is to store specific memories and experiences of his life, thus, lessons learned.  But when the boy opens his small box, it only has soil in it.

When his Grandfather dozes off, he discovers the old man’s box, which is a very large chest, indeed.  On opening it, he falls in and meets some of the characters in his grandfather’s memory, including a grumpy old King and an inquisitive spider.  When brought back from his visit to this Neverland, he discovers why the soil is in his box.  I won’t reveal the answer but, suffice to say, that small acorns breed great oaks.  And, so too is Froud, an example of this, as the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree which bore it (Ms. Henson included).

I enjoyed the film/story very much but have two suggestions.  The voice of the King and spider are unintelligible for the most part, possibly because of the overly-loud music/sound effects.  And the film was too short.  There is a fuller story here and I would be anxious to see more of it, as I assume it will be added to.  I eagerly await further adventures of the Froud and Henson Magic!

Two shorter films played with it.  Colosse (NYC filmmaker, Yves Geleyn) was a Godzilla-like beast (a string-puppet) crashing through the forest.  But his strings become entangled in the trees and they break, causing the beast to fall.  Along comes a woodpecker to his rescue and, by carving a heart in his chest, allows the beast to live without strings.

The second short piece, Melvin the Birder (produced by Portland’s own, Beady Little Eyes Productions), was about a photographer who wanted to shoot, with his camera an elusive woodpecker (paper cut-out puppetry).  He tries all manner of disguises but it is only when he relaxes his guard does the bird find the man and gives him what he needs.

In all these films, there seems to be a gentle message to be learned.  I recommend these filmmakers and their products and hope you will check into them.  If you do, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Bobrauschenbergamerica—Zoomtopia—SE Portland

Americana Redux
This collection of skits/memories of Robert Rauschenberg, an avant-garde artist, is written by Charles Mee, directed by Philip Cuomo and presented by The Third Rail Mentorship Company.  It is playing at Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. through June 29th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-235-1101.

Rauschenberg was an avant-garde, abstract painter/artist during the 50’s.  It’s claimed that he was never from an Artistic family and yet he was able to find Art in anything and he saw beauty in most everything.  He was able to put discordant objects together and find a type of harmony in them.  He wanted his art to reflect on the America he saw and experienced and loved.  This collection of scenes attempts to provide an echo for his visions.

The play is performed by students in the Third Rail’s Company’s mentorship program.  It features Lindsay Dibben, Joel Patrick Durham, Nicholas Erickson, Jessica Hillenbrand, Sean Powell, Rose Proctor, Natalie Stringer, and McKenna Twedt.  If they are an example of the next generation of actors, the performing arts are in good hands!  They have the “right stuff.”

The play is less easy to define, as it’s more of a collection of thoughts, ideas, missteps and connections Bob made during his life.  His mind wanders from musing about infinite space to the intricacies of love and relationships.  We meet a homeless person, a serial killer, a gay couple, a sexy neophyte, et. al. who express themselves through movement, dance, song, monologues, and one-on-one dialogues, as the author searches for meaning in this haphazard planet we call home.

The only connecting tissue seems to be Bob’s Mom (played by all the company members at one time or another) trying to explain his roots.  The influences seems to be a little bit of Wilder and his small-town observances, Whitman and his love of beauty and Nature, and possibly, Beckett and his disassociated characters, all striving for or waiting to discover…something, the secret, the essence of what makes us human and/or important in the larger scheme of things.

And the actors explore these issues with great abandon, surrendering to a larger purpose, albeit unknown.  Some have their private moments in the sun, like the hobo exploring the value and natural beauty of Whitman, or the serial killer trying desperately to find the motivations for his actions and discovering that he can forgive himself, or a simple water slick, where all inhibitions are given flight and they “let the world slide.”  In the end, nothing is resolved, more questions are raised than answers and the mysteries of our purpose, still a conundrum.

The author and artist definitely believe in Americans, as they are fearless, open, giving and an enigma, possibly only to themselves.  But they seem to feel the ideal of the American Dream is in disharmony with the actual living of it.  Perhaps, as it has been said, “Humanity I like, it’s just people I hate.”  But it has also been said, “Judge not, or ye be judged.”  A bit of a puzzle, isn’t it?  

All the actors were very engaging and had the necessary stage presence to create their world on an essentially bare stage.  Dibben, as the hobo and Erickson, as the pizza-boy, were especially effective in their monologues.  But this is a team effort and quite a team it is.  Cuomo, a fine director and actor of other theatre presentations in Portland, has indeed done justice to this complicated piece and led his team effectively, where I’m sure they garnered a lot under his tutelage.

Another important comment that Cuomo professes is that he was not hampered by gender when it came to casting roles.  I agree whole-heartedly with cross-gender, cross-cultural and cross-age casting of roles.  The best actor for the job should be cast, regardless of those factors.  Thank you, Mr. Cuomo, for that insight.

I recommend this show, especially since it showcases students.  Many of the local theatres have programs/classes that engender the arts and they are well worth supporting, for they do something most school programs don’t—they build character.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

OMG! Its…The DONNIE Show—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

Hereeeees, Donnie!

This original production is conceived and directed and designed by Don Horn, Triangle’s Executive Director and Founder.  It runs through June 22nd at their site at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

I have to confess that without a program a reviewer is somewhat lost.  So, if I get names, dates, titles of songs, wrong or missing, etc., I apologize.  But, with that in mind, on with the “really big shew,” as Mr. Sullivan would say.  Yes, this is a type of talk/variety show that might have existed 40+ years ago.  It is a bit of afternoon talk show, via Merv, or the edgier, late-night variety, via Johnny.

And, since there really is no story, and much of it is made up on the spot, my review will chronologically   go through the show, giving a rating for each segment.  One * meaning Poor, up to five ***** meaning Excellent.  The pre-show had Donnie’s side-kick and Musical Director, the fabulous, Jonathan Quesenberry and his band (who must remain nameless because, as mentioned, no program).  But they did a good job of warming up the audience.

My favorite moment being a rendition of “Memories” from Cats.  Band rating ****

Then we move into the lowest point of the show, a comedian called “Craig Tamblyn” (sp?) came out and did a comic (?) routine of what is called “blue” material, or X-rated jokes.  It fell flat, as evidenced by the only occasional titters from the audience.  It would barely get * and that is because it was probably a gal dressed up as a guy telling sexist jokes about women…interesting.  But the good thing is that the show goes uphill from here.

The Donnettes (Dana Thompson, Lydia Fleming & Jalena Montrond) appeared throughout the show doing their best Supremes aping and were terrific.  Lovely to look at and listen to ***  All these acts are interspersed with Donnie (Don Horn), the show’s host, chatting with guests, discussing topical issues of the day, introducing acts, and kibitzing with his sidekick, Quesenberry.  But more about Donnie later….

Then came the fabulous James Shareninghousen, reprising a song his alter-ego did, a type of Muppet, from their extraordinary, Avenue Q.  They have reprised this show once, both to mostly sold-out houses and promise to do it again.  Mr. S. is always good ****  Then a young fellow named David came on and did a number, “In the Box,” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch ***  He said he was auditioning for the lead, as Don says he may produce it some season.  He’s got my vote.

And then there is the ever popular, Golda (Wendy Westerwelle), from the many, essentially one-person shows she does every season, talking about her husband, Saul, and her many views on people and life ****  She’s wonderful and very funny!  And “Angel” a “female illusionist” or drag queen, belted out a couple of numbers that rocked the house.  Especially fine was the number, “Big Spender,” from Sweet Charity.  ***

Gary Wayne Cash, who I’ve touted in a couple of my reviews of him, is always an asset to a show.  He and (I’m just guessing now on his partner name) Lisa Marie Harrison (?) did a number from Jonathon Larson’s play, tick, tick…boom, (which will be done next season at Triangle) the author of the award-winning, Rent.  Cash also did an impromptu number of a woman’s song, “Adele’s Lament,” from Guys and Dolls.  A super actor and performer ****  Mitch, from the band, who plays 50+ instruments, was involved with a couple of semi-solo numbers and played a Shami-san (sp?), a sort of three-stringed, Japanese guitar, strummed with what looked like a type of carving knife.  And he played a number on a coffee cup, too.  Super talent ***

There were also audience-participation games, such as a variation of the card game War, where you might get damp if you were sitting in the wrong place, and a guess-the-price game, where one had to guess the real price of an item which, at the Dollar Store, was only a buck.  Fun. **  Then, a surprise ending, which I won’t reveal, in which a mirror ball was involved and Donnie appeared unlike his usual self.  A fun end to a fun evening.

Did I forget anything?  Oh, yes, Horn’s rating *************************************  He’s a treasure and deserves everyone of those stars!  His plays have always been entertaining, of a very professional quality, and also extremely thought-provoking!  Maybe we’ll see him again onstage someday.  Pass the word, his shows are not to be missed!

I recommend this show but it is very adult in content and language.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Fiction—Serendipity Players—Vancouver, WA

“Achingly Vibrant”

This drama by Steven Dietz and directed by Daniel Hobbs is playing at the Eagles Lodge, 107 E. 7th St. in downtown Vancouver.  It shows through June 29th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 360-834-3588.

The above heading is a quote from the play, as its chief asset is that his language is so rich, akin to a Fitzgerald or T. Williams.  One could probably enjoy reading this play as much as seeing it.  It is a story about writers and the nature of creative writing, or Fiction.

For them, and possibly all of us, doesn’t our fantasy world sometimes get so intertwined with our so-called, real world, that the lines between truth and dreams become blurred?  And what is really “real?”  Is it in the “eye of the beholder?”  Or, as it has been said, “Reality?  I only go as a tourist.”

But this is also a story about Love and Trust…commitment…and the complicated nature of relationships.  In this case, the two writers/lovers, Michael (Tony Broom, Serendipity’s Artistic Director and cofounder) and Linda (Tamara Sorelli) meet in a little café in Paris.  She is a novelist and he, a budding writer.  They trade sarcasms and well-worn lines with each other but, being artists, do speak a language all their own.

And so they marry and write and teach.  He goes to a writers retreat and meets one of the heads of it, Abby (Ia Solis).  She can match wits with him, barb for barb, which inspires him and, evidently, her, too.  He rails against the establishment and the bastardization of books being made into films, pale imitations of the writer’s talent.  She seems stimulated by his passion and so an affair is begun.  Or is it?

He is a writer after all and imagination is sorely needed for penning fiction.  And, like many writers, including his wife, Linda, he keeps a journal.  Years go by and it is discovered that Linda has acquired a fatal brain tumor.  One of her last requests is that he read her journals after she is gone.  But she also wants to read his and since she only has a short time left, it must be now.

They both agree to these terms “but, therein, lies the rub.”  What they both discover about each other, the secret lives, will make them question the very nature of their being.  I can’t tell you more or it would spoil the discoveries an audience must make.

But, it must be said, that true love may be complicated, but it is still, “true love.”  He quotes Dante on this, “Heaven had but one imperfection, the lack of her.”  Or, as Twain has said, when Adam spoke of the death of his Eve, “Wherever she was, there was Eden.”  Amen.

I can speak from personal experience on both of these fronts, as a writer/artist and having lost a “true love.”  As an artist, what you put into your Art is a part of your soul, your essence, your true self.  But Art can be a cruel mistress for, if it finds you worthy, will guide your course.  Your life can be easily fragmented, but instead of the lines blurring between reality and fiction, they expand, become deeper.

And, as for True Love, my own humble contribution was indeed also written at a Writer’s Workshop: 

“In a World of Stories,

You are my Bible.

In a World of Numbers,

You cannot be Divided.

In a World of Places,

You are my Eden!”

I believe that all of us can ascribe to feeling of being, at times, as if a stranger looking into the real world and wondering what all the fuss is about.  A “Stranger in a Strange Land,” perhaps.

In others words, this is a play that can speak to everybody.  Hobbs has done a wonderful job of leading his actors through the mazes of a complicated world, and yet keeping it simple, as the set is, so just the words and the actors shine through.

Broom and Sorelli are perfect for the married writers.  You would think that they actually were married to each other, as they play their scenes smoothly and with an uncanny understanding.  They also underplay their parts and, therefore, become more real for us that way.  Two pros who seem to know their craft very well.

And Solis, as the “other woman,” is a dream as an actor.  She has a focus and a simplicity to her performing that draws you in immediately.  She finds the Truth in her character, a chief asset for any actor, and then displays it for an audience, so that you will believe her, too.  A true talent!

Only sour note was that there seems to be some outside (and/or inside) loud talking/laughing from the bars and/or the streets.  You’d think that people would respect the fact that there is a play going on and to tone it down for a couple of hours.  Perhaps there needs to be signs posted as to “Quiet, Please!  Performance in Session” and/or a monitor to patrol the outside areas of the theatre space.

I recommend this play but it is adult in nature.  If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Pimento & Pullman—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

Rules of Engagement

These two, absurdist one-acts are directed by Jerry Mouawad and produced by Carol Triffle (Imago’s founders and artistic directors).  Pimento is written and directed by Mouawad.  Pullman Car Hiawatha is written by Thornton Wilder and also directed by Mouawad.  The plays run through this weekend only, June 15th, at their space at 17 SE 8th Ave.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-231-9581.

Pimento is the shorter of the two pieces, less than a half hour.  Actually the definition of the word is a spice like, I suppose, that red thing in green olives, or a pigment.  In terms of a palette for this piece, the colors of the costumes are all over the map.  And the spice is that it is a bit racy or, better said for its time, saucy.  For its broadness in characterizations, it does have something in common with the supporting roles in Beauty and the Beast.  For content, it has more in common with Beckett and Pinter.

The plot is relatively simple.  A mother (Carol Triffle) is attempting to introduce her daughter (Stephanie Elizabeth Woods) to the finer aspects and rules of being wooed and wooing.  The young man (Mark Mullaney), as the object of this encounter, is a soldier and seems as inept at this love game as she is.  They attempt various ways of making contact but with mama in the picture, that is not easy.

He brings candy, which only he enjoys…or not.  She giggles and coos and seems naïve of his advances…or not.  And mama finally occupies herself with other chores…or not.  And, oh, by the way, didn’t I tell you, this is all done in pantomime and gibberish, seemingly Germanic and Asian, depending on who’s speaking.  And the characters are something out of the Commedia del art school of acting.

But, and most importantly, in their presentation, they do succeed in getting their point across.  The photos on the table suggest the family history, they attempt to communicate through various means, with musical instruments, and dialogue, and even in a unguarded moment, sneak off, partly out of view of prying eyes (Mama’s and ours) to find a more intimate way to communicate, finally resulting in him drawing pictures of felines (think about it).  In the end, they do make beautiful music together.

The story may be slight, but the presentation is the show, thanks to its inventive director & writer, Mouawad. And all three of the cast members are very adept at stylized movement and over-the-top characters which, when all is said and done, seem very familiar if you think about it.  Well done to all!

Heaven & Earth…and All That Jazz

The second piece, Pullman… by Wilder, is the longer of the two, at just under an hour.  (Both Triffle and Mullaney, from the first show, are part of this ensemble, too.)  There are some identifiable Wilder touches in the play, who wrote the classic, Our Town.  There is a Narrator (Bill Barry, I assume, since no roles are actually identified) or Storyteller.  There is a fair amount of time dedicated to talks about death and what comes after…and went before.  They are about the small-town folk.  And they are done on a relatively bare stage with simple pieces to convey settings.

The time is winter, 1930, and a variety of people are on their way to Chicago on a train, for a variety of reasons.  The story seems to be influenced by a couple of men-in-black, who control the lighting, may manipulate the action, when necessary, and listen in on the prostrations and frustrations of the inhabitants.  These people are the common folk of our planet but do have aspirations, regrets, demons and dreams, just like all of us.

We are permitted, via our guides and the Storyteller, to visit this microcosm of society.  We hear what they are saying, view how they relate, contemplate what they are thinking and are exposed to the outcome of, at least, one life.  We also explore their views on literature, astronomy, theology, and philosophy.  And it is all done through playing musical chairs, to change settings; mini-monologues, to hear individual stories; tableaus or statues, to freeze a group experience; and stylized movement/dance, to give the story its flow.

A lot of territory is examined in these non-traditional presentations by Mouawad and cast.  Triffle, in particular, stands out, as the woman who goes to the end (or a new beginning) of her journey.  But the whole cast in both shows is very adept at movement, expression and simplicity in the presentation of the material.  Imago is famous for exploring these methods of examining the human condition.  My they live long and prosper!

I recommend this show but they are for a mature audience.  And, keep in mind, it ends this weekend.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lizzie—Portland Center Stage----NW Portland

A “Whacky” World

This rock opera is written by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner and directed by Rose Riordan, with musical direction by James Beaton.  It is playing at their space, 128 NW 11th Ave. through June 29th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

I’m sure everyone has heard, at one time or another, that cute, little children’s ditty:  Lizzie Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one.  The  history surrounding that rhyme is steeped in legend and myth and half-truths.  Although she was acquitted of the crime, as having no witnesses or confession, it is generally believed Lizzie (Mary Kate Morrissey) did the dastardly deed.  The trusty maid, Bridget/Maggie (Carrie Cimma) and Lizzie’s sister, Emma (Leslie McDonel) and even her best friend, Alice (Kacie Sheik), all testified against her.

There was no shortage of motives for the crime.  Their step-mother was in the process of cutting them out of the will, as Mr. Borden was a ruthless businessman and very thrifty with his money.  Also her father slaughtered all her birds in the barn that she held dear.  He felt they were filthy animals.  And then there was the little matter of possible sexual abuse from father to daughter and her possible jealousy of her step-mother for her father’s affections.

Also Lizzie was thirty-two at the time of the murders in this sleepy little New England hamlet in the late 1800’s, unmarried and still living at home.  There was some talk that she and her friend, Alice, were lovers.  To be fair, there was some speculation briefly on the older sister, Emma who, at the time of the murders, was away, sorting out family matters.  Or did she sneak back and wait for a ripe opportunity to kill her folks?  Also the maid was a sassy, Irish upstart who hated her lowly job and employers.  And Lizzie’s friend, Alice, may not have wanted to share Lizzie with Daddy.

But the onus fell on Lizzie, as her lifestyle suggested that she certainly could have been unhinged by the circumstances of her upbringing.  The jury found her innocent in a matter of a couple hours, lacking any hard, direct evidence and she lived to the ripe old age of 67 with her inheritance in tack and carrying the secret of her guilt or innocence to the grave.

I wonder what forensic evidence would find if the murders had happened today?  Would it not make a grand TV series if CSI detectives could go back in time to investigate such murders, such as the Bordens, the Lindberg kidnapping, the Zodiac killer and Jack the Ripper?

That’s the story in general, but the style is a rock opera (combining hard rock music with an operatic presentation, in which most of the words/dialogue is sung).  There has been other famous personages from legend and history, as the subject matter for such presentations, like Jesus Christ, Superstar, Jekyll & Hyde, Rent, and John & Rice’s Aida.  Next possible stop, the madcap, mayhem of The Ripper?  I’m sure it’s been thought of.

Although this script/music is not as memorable as the above shows mentioned, the production is!  The delicious, devilish and deadly foursome (Cimma, McDonel, Morrissey & Sheik) that present this lurid tale of the dismembering of the Borden’s, is the selling point for the production!  And the band (Beaton, conductor/music director) also is outstanding!  For once, the music did not overpower the singers,  partly because of good mikes (Cecil Averett, sound designer) and partly because of the intense nature of many songs/singers.  Personally, I preferred the ballads, Maybe Someday, Will You Stay? and Watchmen for the Morning, beautifully performed by the cast.  

Riordan has assembled a perfect cast and band for this show.  And the stark setting and inventive lighting (Daniel Meeker) adds greatly to the success of the production.  A word of warning, though, you might not want to sit in the front row because of a very clever prop device.  Can’t tell you more but if you’ve ever seen a stage show with Galliger, you might get the idea, only it’s not watermelon juice that will be coming at you.

I recommend this show but it is very adult in language and subject matter.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.