The wall of the F. Otto Haas Stage features pictures of targets and X’s for murdered presidents. Starting with John Wilkes Booth’s killing of Abraham Lincoln, it continues through the murders of Presidents Garfield, McKinley and JFK.
Assassins opened Off-Broadway in 1990, closing after 73 performances to mixed reviews, many of them negative. It was bravely brought back to Broadway in 2004, this time to high praise and 5 Tony Awards.
This show about outrageous murderers is …entertaining. A lot of silly business balances it out, including guns pointed at the audience—very comfy. Assassins is a singular celebration of several psychopaths in American history who sought to aggrandize themselves by the notoriety attained by the slaughter of someone important.
The main character of the musical, John Wilkes Booth, is hailed as the founding father of assassination in America. Having shot and killed Abraham Lincoln in an act of political drama, his stature is unrivaled among the criminally insane.
Also offered for admiration are eight other lesser individuals who either killed, or attempted to kill, U.S. presidents, with special honors going to Lee Harvey Oswald. This subject has broken new ground. What’s next, Genocide, the Musical? The Arden’s accomplished director, Terrence J. Nolen, has rounded up talented musicians and a fine cast with good singers, although at times it was hard to hear all of Sondheim’s lyrics in the spacious theater.
On December 8, 2021, in a rare homage, Broadway theaters dimmed their marquee lights for one minute as a tribute to Sondheim who had died in November.
[Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St] September 21-October 22, 2023; ardentheatre.org
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by John Weidman
Cast: Katherine Fried, Scott Greer, Robi Hager, Darren Michael Hengst, Monica Horan, Miles Jacoby, Christopher Patrick Mullen, Steve Pacek, Matteo Scammell, Harrison Smith
Scenic Designer, Paige Hathaway. Lighting Designer, Thom Weaver. Costume Designer, Maiko Matsushima.
Video Designer, Jorge Cousineau. Sound Designer, Elizabeth Atkinson.
Chamber Music Director & Conductor, Ryan Touhey. Orchestra: Nero Catalano, Julie Clement, Daniel Espie, Rachel Massey, Harvey Price, Lorenzo Raval