American Stage Company in Teaneck, NJ, will take a whack at the world premiere musical, Lizzie Borden, starring Broadway's Alison Fraser, beginning previews Oct. 28.
Halloween night, Oct. 31, is the official opening for the Amy Powers Christopher McGovern musical about the infamous hatchet murder of Borden's wealthy father and stepmother in 1892 Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden continues on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University through Nov. 22.
ASC general manager Gigi Kulczak said the show's subject is luring New York producers to ASC, and it's hoped that Lizzie Borden will follow the path of such previous ASC-originated shows as Forever Plaid and Other People's Money, which became New York hits.
Fraser, of Broadway's Romance, Romance and The Secret Garden and Off-Broadway's March of the Falsettos, The Green Heart and Swingtime Canteen, plays Lizzie, the main suspect. She sings lyrics by Amy Powers, the American writer who penned "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye," two of the major sequences in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard.
Kulczak told Playbill On-Line Oct. 27 that Lizzie Borden is unlike anything seen by subscribers of the Teaneck resident theatre, which operates in the 290-seat Becton Theatre. "I think it's probably going to challenge our audience," Kulczak said, adding that the patrons are "very appreciative and used to new work." The material is similar in tone to Les Miserables or Sweeney Todd, Kulczak said. It's not a comic or satiric take on the legend that inspired the children's rhyme. She said the show's tone is "dark, haunting and moving" rather than "scary" or "gory."
The director-choreographer is Bill Castellino, whose credits include the world premieres of Amanda McBroom's Heartbeats at the Old Globe Theatre and Elizabeth Swados' We Are Not Strangers and Rap Master Ronnie. He also staged a musical version of On Golden Pond at Michigan's Cherry County Playhouse over the summer.
McGovern, who wrote music and co-wrote the lyrics and book with Powers, also wrote The Ugly Duck for Theatreworks/USA, and is the resident composer/lyricist for Stages of Imagination in Philadelphia. He has also music-directed throughout the country.
The sensational Borden case in Fall River, MA., has previously inspired the Jack Beeson opera, Lizzie Borden and Agnes DeMille's ballet, "Fall River Legend."
Also in the cast are Eleanor Glockner, Joan Barber, Maddie Blue, Rex Hayes, Michael Babin, Rose McGuire, Bethanne Collins, Brenda Cummings, Steven L. Hudson, Marian Steiner and Jamey McGaugh. Designers are Michael Anania (sets), Ted Mather (lighting), Dale Dibernardo (costumes).
The 12-year-old ASC has sent 12 productions to Off-Broadway, including I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, Other People's Money and Over the River and Through the Woods. New work generally makes up half of the ASC's four-show season. The company was founded by Paul Sorvino and a group of Bergen County, NJ, arts patrons in 1986.
For ticket information, call (201) 692-7744.
-- By Kenneth Jones