A spokesman for the Roundabout Theatre Company confirmed March 30 that the Manhattan troupe will present the Broadway debut of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins beginning in November 2001 at the Booth Theatre.
Joe Mantello (Design For Living) will helm the staging, as he did the June 2, 2000, Roundabout reading. Michael Starobin will do orchestrations. No cast has been announced, but the developmental readings featured Neil Patrick Harris (Balladeer/Oswald), Michael Hall (John Wilkes Booth), Becky Ann Baker (Sara Jane Moore), Lisa Loeb (Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme), Stephen Spinella (Charles Guiteau), Brian D'Arcy James (Giuseppe Zangara), Paul Kandel (Proprietor), John Dossett (Leon Czolgosz), Matt McGrath (John Hinckley) and Mario Cantone (Samuel Byck).
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. Their stories are told in a variety of musical styles, alternately presentational and personal. The styles range from soulful pop ballad (for John Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme, singing of those who inspired their violence) to Sousa-laced march (for tourist-witnesses to a Roosevelt shooting) to jaunty show tune (for the company, insisting "Everybody's Got the Right to Be Happy").
The original staging, directed by Jerry Zaks, featured Debra Monk, Jace Alexander, Lee Wilkof, Annie Golden, Greg Germann, Victor Garber, Terrence Mann and Jonathan Hadary. Its run at Playwrights Horizons was a sold-out success, but plans to move the show to Broadway were largely squashed when the Gulf War erupted and producers thought the timing unwise for such a dark, political musical.
Despite the initial short run, a cast album was recorded, with a larger orchestra and orchestrations not heard in the tiny Off-Broadway staging. The release is treasured by Sondheim fans. A song called "Something Just Broke" was added to the score when the show made its British debut (and is not heard on any recording). The number is said to humanize the characters and events of the musical and addresses how common folk reacted the first time they heard of the deaths of Kennedy, Lincoln and others. "Something Just Broke" was heard in the 2000 workshop-reading. The creative team for the June 2, 2000, reading included musical director Paul Gemignani, assistant musical director Paul Ford and assistant director Trip Cullman and casting-artistic development director Jim Carnahan.
— By Kenneth Jones
and Murdoch McBride