Assassins (musical)

Assassins is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by John Weidman and was based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. It uses a revue-like style to examine the men and women who have attempted and/or succeeded in assassinating a U.S. President. The style of the music varies widely, reflecting the different styles of music popular at the times of the events depicted.

Assassins opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on January 27, 1991, and played 73 performances. The cast included Victor Garber, Terrance Mann, Patrick Cassidy, Debra Monk, and Annie Golden. The musical was supposed to have its first Broadway production in 2001, but the show was postponed after the events of September 11, 2001.

Assassins received its Broadway debut on April 22, 2004. The Roundabout Theater Company opened the show on Broadway at Studio 54. After a limited run of 101 performances, it closed on July 18th, 2004. The performance starred Neil Patrick Harris, who is best known for his title role in the television series Doogie Howser, M.D., as the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald; it also featured Michael Cerveris as John Wilkes Booth, for which he received a Tony Award. The production was noted for a coup de theatre in which the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was projected on the t-shirt of Neil Patrick Harris.

The 2004 production won six out of seven 2004 Tony Awards for which it was nominated (Best Revival of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris), Best Lighting Design (Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher), Best Direction of a Musical (Joe Mantello), and Best Orchestrations (Michael Starobin).



Musical Numbers/Scenes

  • "Everybody's Got the Right" (The Proprietor & The Assassins)
  • "The Ballad of Booth" (The Balladeer, Booth)
  • "Ladies and gentlemen, a toast . . ." (Guiteau, Zangara, Booth, Hinckley, Czolgosz)
  • "How I Saved Roosevelt" (Company, Zangara)
  • "What does a man do . . .?" (Goldman, Czolgosz)
  • "Gun Song" (Czolgosz, Booth, Guiteau & Moore)
  • "The Ballad of Czolgosz" (The Balladeer & Company)
  • "Unworthy of Your Love" (Hinckley & Fromme)
  • "I am a Terrifying and Imposing Figure!" (Moore, Guiteau, Blaine, Garfield)
  • "The Ballad of Guiteau" (Guiteau & The Balladeer)
  • "Have It Your Way" (Byck)
  • "Another National Anthem" (The Assassins, The Balladeer, The Proprietor)
  • "November 22, 1963" (Oswald & The Assassins) (not a musical number, but a scene included on the original recordings.)
  • "Something Just Broke" (The Company) (added during the 1992 London production at the Donmar Warehouse)
  • "Finale: Everybody's Got the Right" (The Assassins, including Oswald)

Performing Assassins

Assassins is popular in school drama productions, as the personalities of each character can change varying on the actor/actress playing them. Many different props are used for Assassins, the most noticeable being the guns and an optional screen. The screen can be used as extra background. Another option is to use it to display the Presidential targets in the shooting gallery (Everbody's Got the Right) or pictures of Booth during the Ballad of Booth. It may also show different varieties of guns for the Gun Song. It is also possible to have a recording of the newspaper reporter's voice to start off How I Saved Roosevelt. It is also necessary to have a working camera, real food for the Assassins to eat, and a rope for Guiteau to be hung from, as well as a realistic-looking electric chair for Zangara (the director can always use a normal chair and have the lights be flicked on and off spontaneously to simulate electrocution). One interesting way to present Unworthy of Your Love is to have Hinckley in a modern-day bar (possibly the same one from Ladies and gentlemen, a toast) where he goes onto stage (succeeded by Fromme, of course) to sing his folk song. The Bartender can say the lines originally spoken by Reagan.

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