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The Borden family axe murders, arguably perpetrated by youngest daughter Lizzie, is so ingrained in American culture that there’s even a children’s rhyme about it.

So why not go the whole-hog and turn the grizzly Victorian era killings into a goth-rock musical? Accompanied by a live band cranking out tunes that Led Zeppelin and Heart would be proud of.


I saw Sunday’s matinee performance of Lizzie at San Jose’s City Lights Theater Company and my inner rock-chick was enthralled by the music and the story.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Borden tale, cast your mind back to Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892.


Andrew Borden was known as a notorious miser in the town and had married Abby Durfee, after the mother of his two daughters died. The undertaker and property developer wouldn’t allow any extravagances in the family home, including plumbing or electricity.


Emma, played by Amy Soriano-Palagi, is Lizzie’s older sister by a full decade. All Pictures: Steve DiBartolomeo

Emma and Lizzie weren’t on good terms with their stepmother, and tensions were often ran high in the household. Weeks before the murders, the sisters went away after a family argument.

Abby was found in a guest bedroom with 18 hatchet wounds to her face and head while Andrew suffered 11 blows to the face while napping on a sofa.

Lizzie was charged with their murders but was controversially acquitted. To this day there is debate over whether she killed the pair.


You don’t see a four-character musical very often, but there’s something special about this one. The performances are electrifying and sent chills down my spine. It’s a no-holds-barred two hour ride with Riot Grrl attitude to boot.

The performances of Hayley Lovgren as Lizzie, Amy Soriano-Palagi as Emma and Sharon Lita as the girls’ neighbour Alice, range from wistful to downright enraged. Backed by screaming guitars, a throbbing bass and drums to match.


From left: Maid Bridget (Chloë Angst), Lizzie (Hayley Lovgren) and Alice (Sharon Lita). Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

But it was Bridget the maid, played by Chloe Angst, who stole the show for me. Perfectly capturing the essence of a maid crazed by a family plagued by secrets, lies and intrigue. Her expression alone could stop a grizzly bear in its tracks.


Snap up tickets now. This show is, in a word, amazing. Four strong female leads meld together to show you the angst, sadness, entrapment, horror and finally freedom of growing up in the Victorian period.

The intensity of the show is mostly due to the quartet’s spectacular unrestrained voices, underlined by a rocking band, just visible behind a mesh wall of the set.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill musical. But Lizzie Borden wasn’t your run-of-the-mill woman either.


Where: City Lights Theater, 529 S. Second Street, San Jose.
When: Wednesdays to Sundays until August 20.
Cost: $19-$44 (discounts for seniors, students and groups of 10+).
Tickets from the City Lights Theater Company website.

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A ticket to Lizzie was provided in exchange for an honest review. As always all opinions are my own.