A strong score and powerhouse vocal performances give this bold rock musical take on the axe-wielding murderess a dynamic, infectious energy.
Like the Broadway musical Spring Awakening -- which seems like a direct influence on this production -- period elements are mixed with postmodern, contemporary components. The song's lyrics contain both slang and profanity, while the music veers into punk with occasional detours into a more folksy sound and even one number beautifully sung as a psalm ("Watchmen For the Morning").
Maner, who also directed, stages the show presentationally, with his four actresses often standing behind microphones to deliver both lines and songs. Occasionally, they'll participate in more book-driven scenes, but these moments are the least successful, as the character relationships are only sketched in and the performers tend to indicate their motivations in too broad a fashion.
Jenny Fellner starts out by playing Lizzie as a shy, emotionally fragile woman whom the script makes clear is sexually abused by her father. But she steadily undergoes a fierce transformation, leading into the positively electrifying first act finale, "Somebody Will Do Something," in which the murders are committed. Marie-France Arcilla, who plays Alice Russell, is given the show's best song, the ballad "Will You Stay?" and interprets it beautifully. Alice sings the number to Lizzie as a song of longing and seduction; their relationship is the most developed in the musical, but the lesbian love story still needs to be fleshed out further in order to be fully effective.
Carrie Cimma has a strong, and delightfully quirky presence as the Borden's maid, Bridget, and her performance of "Shattercane and Velvet Grass," sung with Fellner's Lizzie, is another of the show's high points. Lisa Birnbaum, as Lizzie's older sister Emma, is quite stilted in the majority of her book scenes, but lets loose in her musical numbers, particularly "Sweet Little Sister" and "Emma's Return."