Theatre review: “Assassins” is a dream spectacularly fulfilled

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From the November 7, 2013 edition

Kill just anyone, we call it murder. Kill a nation’s leader, it earns the honorific of assassination.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy approaching later this month, director John Dranschak of Red Herring Productions thought he’d take a shot at realizing one of his dreams: producing the unlikely and still audacious musical “Assassins,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman. And as Sondheim reminds us, “Everybody’s got the right to their dreams.”

Count Dranschak’s dream as fulfilled. Spectacularly so.

There is not a weak performance in the bunch of failed or successful assassins, which include the Jodie-Foster-obsessed John Hinckley (Christopher Storer), the Charles-Manson-obsessed Squeaky Fromme (Kate Lingnofski), the stomach-obsessed Giuseppe Zangara (Drew Eberly), the self-obsessed Charles Guiteau (Scott Wilson), the hapless Sarah Jane Moore (Kim Garrison Hopcraft), “anarchist” Leon Czolgosz (Jay Rittberger) and the wild-eyed Samuel Byck (Todd Covert). Danielle Mann makes a huge impression as Emma Goldman. Scott Willis showcases his many voices as the Proprietor.

The seven-person ensemble breaks hearts with “Something Just Broke.” Music Director Pam Welsh-Huggins leads her tiny orchestra in one of Sondheim’s most accessible scores, suffused with marches, ballads and “Hail to the Chief.”

As John Wilkes Booth, Ian Short hits another bull’s-eye. Balladeer Nick Lingnofski transforms from folksy to chilling.

Sondheim and Weidman penned a sly examination of our country’s twin fascinations with violence and celebrity, making it darkly hilarious in the process. The Red Herring production is absolute killer.

Dan Welsh photo

Scott Wilson as Charles Guiteau, left to right, Jay Rittberger as Leon Czolgosz and Ian Short as John Wilkes Booth in the Red Herring Productions’ musical “Assassins.”