Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's dark musical Assassins, which was due on Broadway this fall but almost immediately postponed after Sept. 11, will rise again. The show was given a one-day workshop by the Roundabout Theatre Company in November, and the Roundabout confirmed on Jan. 10 that the show has a future with the company.
Choreographer John Carrafa, who has been attached to the project from the start, was even more sanguine about the musical's prospects of reaching the Great White Way. Speaking at a press preview of Into the Woods, he told Playbill On-Line "It's definitely going to happen. It's just a question of dates."
The reading was directed by Joe Mantello and featured the cast advertised for Broadway, including Douglas Sills, Neil Patrick Harris, Denis O'Hare and Raul Esparza. Esparza was recently cast in two other Sondheim projects: Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park with George, both at the Kennedy Center. Carrafa, too, will be working at the Kennedy Center this summer, on A Little Night Music.
In a released statement as the time of the postponement, Sondheim and book writer John Weidman said "Assassins is a show which asks audiences to think critically about various aspects of the American experience. In light of Tuesday’s murderous assault on our nation and on the most fundamental things in which we all believe, we, the Roundabout, and director Joe Mantello believe this is not an appropriate time to present a show which makes such a demand.” Assassins was to have begun previews Nov. 1 for a Nov. 29 opening at the Music Box Theatre.
The 1991 musical, seen in a sold-out Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons, traces the stories of people who killed or tried to kill American presidents throughout history. Darkly comic, Assassins visits forgotten murderers like the wannabe anarchist Leon Czolgosz who killed William McKinley, to the infamous assassins Booth, who shot Abraham Lincoln, and Oswald, who killed John F. Kennedy.
The assassinations are visited through various ballads: the light Sousa march-inspired "How I Saved Roosevelt"; the lite pop "Unworthy of Your Love," in which Fromme and Hinckley express their devotion to Charles Manson and Jodie Foster, respectively; and the uptempo traditional theatre song, "Everybody's Got the Right to Be Happy," a defense by the assassins for their crimes.
There are also vignettes and scenes where the various killers and attempted murderers come in contact with another. In one scene, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore, who will both try to kill Gerald Ford, talk over a bucket of chicken before Moore tries to kill the president. In another, Sam Byk, a crazed taxi driver — who sent taped monologues to various luminaries (including Leonard Bernstein) before plotting to drive a plane into Richard Nixon's White House—delivers hate speech from his cab. In the harshest and most tense scene in the musical, all the assassins before and after Oswald appear in the Texas Book Depository to convince the unknowing clerk that he must shoot Kennedy.