MTs Bring Rage, Sex, and Bloody Murder to Lakewood

Every weekend throughout the month of February, Lakewood’s Beck Center for the Arts will be filled with the sounds of punk rock – and axe-murder.  

The Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre program is collaborating with the Beck Center for a new production of “Lizzie,” a rock musical based on the real-life mystery of Lizzie Borden, the Massachusetts woman-turned folk legend who was tried and acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in 1892.  

“Lizzie,” not to be confused with the 2018 film or any other of the myriad pop-cultural imaginings of the folk tale, is no stranger to the BW stage; BW and Cleveland’s Playhouse Square collaborated on a production a 2012 and a revival in 2017. Since its off-off-Broadway premiere under the title “Lizzie Borden” in 2009, the show has seen productions in over 60 cities in six countries, several of which have been directed by Victoria Bussert, director of BW’s music theatre program, who also helms BW’s production this month.   

“I’ve directed it in Denmark, London and Chicago,” Bussert told the Lakewood Sun Press Herald in January. “Every time I do it, I’m so blown away by the transformation of the actresses, only because they never get to experience this kind of rock star rawness, passion, intrigue and mystery.” 

Bussert directs 13 BW students in the double-cast production. The show features a cast of four woman performers and a six-piece rock band, with music and orchestrations inspired by woman-fronted rock and punk bands of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.    

Following a succession 2017 London production, the show was originally slated for an off-Broadway run in 2019 directed by Bussert starring Broadway’s Eden Espinosa and BW alum Ciara Renée (’13). While that production was later postponed by its production team, the show remains a favorite for professional and regional theatre companies.  

The show, not expressly biographical of Borden or any historical figures, uses the legend of Borden’s “40 whacks” to explore themes of patriarchy, family, and celebrity, set to a raucous score with music by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt and lyrics by Cheslik-DeMeyer and Tim Maner.  

Baldwin Wallace Musical Theatre’s production of “Lizzie” began on February 4 and will continue to play Thursdays through Sundays for the rest of February inside the Mackey Theatre at the Beck Center. More information on the production, including performance dates and times, can be found at