Mantello Says Assassins Is a Go for Roundabout's 2003-2004 Season

News   Mantello Says Assassins Is a Go for Roundabout's 2003-2004 Season In an Aug. 4 Variety interview, director Joe Mantello confirmed that Assassins will be on the boards during the 2003-2004 season. He told the show-biz daily, "Rumors are [that] nothing [is] happening, that Roundabout quietly wants it to go away, but that's not true. Todd Haimes has talked about the following season (2003-04). We're definitely all doing it."

In an Aug. 4 Variety interview, director Joe Mantello confirmed that Assassins will be on the boards during the 2003-2004 season. He told the show-biz daily, "Rumors are [that] nothing [is] happening, that Roundabout quietly wants it to go away, but that's not true. Todd Haimes has talked about the following season (2003-04). We're definitely all doing it."

In the spring, Haimes told the New York Times Assassins was likely for a fall 2002 bow at Studio 54. Instead, the Roundabout's 2002-2003 features a revival of Tartuffe starring Henry Goodman in December, Miss Julie with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Natasha Richardson in January 2003, Nine starring Antonio Banderas and Laura Benanti in March 2003 and the Burt Bacharach-Hal David revue (formerly What the World Needs Now) The Look of Love in spring 2003. Ann Reinking will choreograph the latter with direction by Scott Ellis.

Roundabout Theatre Company canceled the fall 2001 Broadway production of Assassins after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington, DC and New York City. In a statement released on Sept. 13, Assassins composer Stephen 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, 2001 for a Nov. 29, 2001 opening at the Music Box Theatre. Tony nominee Douglas Sills, TV's Neil Patrick Harris, Roundabout regular Denis O'Hare and up-and-comer Raul Esparza were the top names in the Roundabout revival of John Weidman and Stephen Sondheim's Assassins.

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 U.S. 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 speeches 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.

Mantello is currently at work on Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg's play about a professional baseball player who comes out as a gay man. His newest musical venture is Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahren and Terrence McNally's A Man of No Importance at Lincoln Center this fall, followed by Stephen Schwartz's Wicked, set to begin rehearsals in February 2003 for its San Francisco premiere. Wicked is expected to begin previews on Broadway Halloween 2003.