Lizzie Borden, the world premiere musical presented last month by the American Stage Company in Teaneck, NJ, will have an original cast album, documenting Alison Fraser's title-role performance in the Amy Powers-Christopher McGovern show.
Bruce Yeko of Original Cast Records and Jim Vagias, executive producer of American Stage, told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 30) the one-disc album will be recorded Dec. 5 with the American Stage cast intact. Yeko said his label will release the recording February 1999.
Fraser, of Broadway's Romance, Romance and The Secret Garden and Off-Broadway's March of the Falsettos, The Green Heart and Swingtime Canteen, played Lizzie, the main suspect in the infamous New England patricide case. She sang lyrics by 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.
Vagias said the Oct. 28-Nov. 22 staging, which received mixed reviews, sold solidly and that he looked forward to following the show's progress. He said an album would help the collaborators find a larger audience as well as a larger pool of potential producers.
He wouldn't discuss what sort of royalties American Stage will reap if the production gets a major commercial staging, but said he is pleased to have the world premiere credit and pleased that American Stage increases it visibility with a CD. This isn't the first time a recording came of a show that originated at American Stage: Forever Plaid, Swingtime Canteen and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change all begat regional stagings and cast albums. *
The musical took a whack at retelling the story of the infamous hatchet murder of Borden's wealthy father and stepmother in 1892 Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden opened Halloween night, Oct. 31, on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Before opening, ASC general manager Gigi Kulczak said the show's subject was luring New York producers to ASC, and it was hoped that Lizzie Borden would follow the path of such previous ASC-originated shows as Forever Plaid and Other People's Money, which became New York hits.
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 were Eleanor Glockner, Rex Hayes, Michael Babin, Rose McGuire, Bethanne Collins, Brenda Cummings, Steven L. Hudson, Maddie Blue, Joan Barber, Marian Steiner and Jamey McGaugh. Designers were 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.
-- By Kenneth Jones