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Rock-fueled 'Lizzie' takes its hacks at Mantorville Theatre Company

"Lizzie" brings a goth and rock musical theater style to the 1892 axe murder case surrounding Lizzie Borden.

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Maggie Hendrickson, playing Lizzie Borden, in Mantorville Theatre Company's production of the rock musical "Lizzie" Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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MANTORVILLE, Minn. — Two years of COVID-related delays wasn’t enough for Mantorville Theatre Company to chop their planned production of the rock musical “Lizzie.”

The show, based on the story of Lizzie Borden, who was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Massachusetts in 1892 is based on one part trial testimony, one part witness accounts and one part historical speculation to the strains of a four-piece rock band.

“The music is what makes this show,” said Maggie Hendrickson, who plays Lizzie Borden.

Hendrickson channels a conflicted Borden and builds to a predictably bloody climax that changes the tone of the show. From there, act two takes a turn in tone toward a goth punk soundtrack and look.

Hendrickson said she won’t give away the plot, but that events in the show unfold as some historians have speculated and are based on witness accounts and testimony as well.

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Despite being cast more than two years ago, all cast members stayed with the twice-delayed production.

“This is something you don’t get to do very often,” said Sam Ryan, who plays Emma Borden. “I wasn’t giving up my chance to sing these songs and we’re all very stubborn people.”

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Maggie Hendrickson, playing Lizzie Borden, in Mantorville Theatre Company's production of the rock musical "Lizzie" Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

All four cast members said they didn’t want to give up their roles despite the show being announced in 2019.

“You don’t walk away from a project like this,” added Michele Nyman, who plays the family maid Bridget.

Director Sarah Schaller wasn’t giving up the cast. Finding four actors who have the vocal prowess to pull off each of the roles isn’t always a guarantee, she said.

Neither is the chance to put on a production that’s a departure from traditional theater.

“This is one of those shows and casts that comes along once in a long while,” Schaller said.

Schaller said some members of the Mantorville Theatre board were initially skeptical. However, the desire to bring in a different audience trumped any doubt, she added.

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“We were hoping to do something that would attract a lot of people into the theater who might not come to other shows,” Schaller said.

Denise Ruemping, who plays Alice, heard of the show from a friend who performed the music in a production in Duluth. Ruemping said she listened to a soundtrack of the show, was enthralled and brought it to the attention of the Mantorville Theatre Company.

Ruemping said the cast has served the songs well.

“For me, it’s about the team work,” she said. “The commitment level is really high.”

If you go

What: “Lizzie” rock musical presented by Mantorville Theatre Company

When: 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29 with a special 2 p.m. matinee Saturday Oct. 29; 2 p.m. Sundays Oct. 16, 23.

Where: 5 Fifth St. W, Mantorville, Minn.

How much: $15

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Website: www.mantorvilletheatrecompany.com

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Maggie Hendrickson, playing Lizzie Borden, goes over a book of household poisons with Michelle Nyman, who plays Borden's family maid Bridget, in Mantorville Theatre Company's production of the rock musical "Lizzie" Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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Denise Ruemping, who plays Alice, with Maggie Hendrickson, who plays Lizzie Borden, in Mantorville Theatre Company's production of the rock musical "Lizzie" Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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