Stephen Sondheim’s creative genius shines in most of his shows, and Assassins is no exception. Originally shown Off-Broadway in December of 1990, in the midst of the Persian Gulf War, the show received mixed reviews from its audience. Much of the criticism was surrounded by the political and social setting of the world at the time, and this resounded in the planned revival for November of 2001. As would be expected, the show was postponed due to the September 11th attacks. Even in today’s political climate, Assassins still continues to experience scorn for its position on the idea of assassination. Like many of Sondheim’s other works, the statement that this show is trying to make should be able to permeate to more adult audiences, especially with such gory and raw content. The 2017 New York City Center production certainly proved Sondheim’s moral that people will go to extremes to get their own reward and to be heard just so they can be remembered, even at the expense of being scrutinized for the rest of their life and/or facing a death of their own.
This production was overall one of the most spectacular pieces of theatre I have borne witness to. With the exception of the actor playing the Pioneer, I felt that everyone was perfectly cast--including the ensemble. From the clips that were shared, I was wary about how the Balladeer would fair, but he ended up being one of the most talented in the show and one of my favorite characters. The comedic scenes of monologue and dialogue interwoven between the gut wrenching and eerily graphic baseline of a story were played off very well. Erin Markey as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Victoria Clark as Sara Jane Moore kept me in hysterics shooting that bucket of KFC and throwing bullets at Gerald Ford. Steven Pasquale gave me chills with his rendition of “The Ballad of Booth”, and Alex Brightman was a star as Giuseppe Zangara. Cory Michael Smith’s performance, though brief, was so captivating that I wished he could have had more stage time. I really felt that I was there with the assassins in the moment, and I almost moralized with them in their struggle to be paid attention to. Of course, I know that all of these individuals are criminals who committed one of the worst acts of crime out there. This show was one of my favorites when I had to read the libretto for one of my classes, and seeing it come to life not twelve feet in front of my eyes was an invaluable experience. All in all, this Assassins attempt was a clear success.
Binghamton University student who loves groundbreaking displays of contemporary theatre (and a bunch of other stuff).