FEATURE: LIZZIE: the Musical Press Launch and Interview with Shekinah McFarlane
🎫 AD | Pr Invite - on behalf of Theatre & Tonic
On Tuesday the 15th of August I was invited to the press launch of the first ever UK built production of LIZZIE: the Musical at The Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, and I was also lucky enough to interview cast member; Shekinah McFarlane.
LIZZIE: the musical is the story of Lizzie Borden and how she was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in August 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts.
With the book by Tim Maner and score and lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer & Alan Stevens Hewitt the show first premiered in 2009 in New York and then came to London in 2017, this is a new production of the show and I was delighted to be able to see a preview of it.
Lizzie stars Lauren Drew in title role of Lizzie Borden, Maiya Quansah-Breed as Alice, Shekinah McFarlane as Emma & Mairi Barclay as Bridget, with also Emma Louise Hoey and Ayesha Patel who are covers.
The press launch showcased a variety of songs from the show which all showed the different themes and characters, which gave you a good sense of what the show will be like when it opens early September.
One of songs was "House of Borden" which is the opening number setting up the show and giving us backstories of characters. This is an excellent opening as it really was engaging it feels intense and it's a good setup for the audience to understand.
You could certainly get the sense of the genre of the music from the songs, which is Punk Rock, the songs that were showcased definitely had punk rock running through them.
Other songs shown to us was "If you knew", "Sweet Little Sister", "Burn the old Thing Up" and the shows "Finale" the songs had well blended harmonies with all the cast members sounding so powerful and all the songs showed the characters well and also had an incite in plot points without giving to much away making you want more to find out what happens next or before, the score seemed like fiery-gritty and I look forward to seeing it put together with choreography.
I loved the how the show uses microphones at certain points in songs which made the show feel more engaging.
At the press launch I got the chance to chat with one of the cast - Shekinah McFarlane, who plays Emma Borden to find out more about her character and what should audiences look forward to.
What is LIZZIE the Musical about?
LIZZIE: the musical is about following the life of Lizzie Borden, who's known in America as the axe murderess. There's so many conspiracy theories about her story, her life and how everything comes to be. It's also about the four women within that household and what their journey is like as.... dare I say a sisterhood? Almost like a secret sister sorority of what happens in the boarding house, and it follows that timeline up until.....some things go down!
How would you describe your Character?
Emma Borden is she's fiery. She's very protective of Lizzie, very protective, and I think she also has an element of stubbornness to her that kind of comes through always wanting to find an answer, and and she wants to make sure everyone's OK and make sure she and Lizzie, like Lizzie's her priority. So she wants to make sure that is why she. Unfortunately, she's made a mother figure early in her life, so I think she also has this very motherly sense, and she holds a lot of different emotions around her.
What Drew you to wanting to be in the show?
Ohh what drew me to the show, the music number one. I think, I never realised it until I think until I kind of got little glimpses within my career. Rock musicals are starting to become my niche, it's that punk rock kind of thing.
It's where my voice is more comfortable. I know where my stamina is with that. I heard the song in Act 2 called "what the *Beep*" and I went 'ah that's going to be an interesting one to sing'. And then when I knew I was singing it with Lauren, I went, 'yeah', all right now this is something that I need to be a part of. There was something about the music in this show that gets your like, your blood pumping and your feet pounding and your fists pumping.
How would you Describe the shows book and the music? how do they play together?
So interesting thing we had a little zoom with the writers of the show. Having all three of them on our screen and telling us like where their thoughts were coming from with it everything was a really interesting insight into the story. I remember we all sat on day one, did our reading through, and it was that instant moment where we were like, 'Ohh no no. This story gets so much deeper', which is number one to what we're saying, not just from the songs, but actually with the book that we have, it really does kind of propel the story. So it's one of those things that people have to pay attention, just immerse yourself in it, because you don't wanna miss a beat cause once you're on the train, honey, it don't stop...it don't stop.
What can audiences expect when they come and see the show?
Audiences can expect, rage, sex and bloody murder. It is literally a True Crime Story in a punk rock version giving you so many different angles and
perspectives and I think also nuances and revelation.
How would you Describe the show in one Sentence?
Hey, now you're asking me a hard question. In one sentence. I would say for the show I would say. Run with the rage, run with the rage because rage can come in many different forms.
This production has direction and choreography William Whelton with also associate choreographer Yandass Ndlovu, musical supervision by Katy Richardson, musical director Honor Halford-Macleod, video design by Dan Light
set and lighting by Andrew Exeter, costume design by Rachel Tansey, sound design by Adam Fisher and casting by Pearson casting.
From what we were treated to on Tuesday, this gave us a real sense of story, and what is to come from this show, personally I do feel that the show will be a hit with audiences, and those audiences will be in for a treat. Even if your not a true crime fan or even a musical theatre fan, I do think you will enjoy it. As soon as I came home I looked for a cast recording which I found as the songs were quite catchy, I can't wait to see what the whole production looks like when the show is up and running, this was only a taster and with a taster as good at that, can't wait to see the full show.
IMPORTANT SHOW INFO
LIZZIE: the musical
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
1st of September - 30th of September
Tuesday – Saturday 19:30, Saturday 14:30, Sunday 15:00/17:00
Age Guide - 13+
CW: Violence, references to sexual abuse, strong language. Use of strobe lights