Turning the Studio 54 stage into the underbelly of a carnival roller coaster — complete with shooting gallery, spinning wheel and unattainable prizes — the musical revival began performances March 31. Tony Award winner Joe Mantello (Wicked, Take Me Out ) directs the Roundabout Theatre Company revival, currently slated to run through June 20.
Assassins, which debuted Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1990, theatrically retells the stories of the nine individuals who took aim at eight different presidents — the four successful and five attempted assassins. The stageshow filled with song anachronistically weaves together scenes wherein they all interact with one another.
The ensemble cast features Neil Patrick Harris (Proof, Cabaret) in dual roles as The Balladeer — who comments on the action to the audience — and arguably the most infamous assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Michael Cerveris (Titanic, Tommy) swaggers as the first successful presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. James Barbour (Jane Eyre, Carousel) portrays William McKinley killer Leon Czolgosz. Denis O'Hare (Take Me Out) cakewalks as the eccentric office seeker/ James Garfield murderer Charles Guiteau. Mario Cantone (The Violet Hour) takes on Samuel Byck who threatened Richard Nixon with a 747. Jeffrey Kuhn (Ragtime) plays FDR gunman Giuseppe Zangara. Alexander Gemignani plays the Jodie Foster-obsessed Ronald Reagan shooter John Hinkley. And Becky Ann Baker (Titanic) and Mary Catherine Garrison (Debbie Does Dallas) play Gerald Ford's femme fatale Sara Jane Moore and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, respectively.
A shorn Marc Kudisch (Thoroughly Modern Millie) is also featured in the cast as the Proprietor, who sets the show in motion and provides weapons and more to the assassins. James Clow, Merwin Foard, Eamon Foley, Kendra Kassebaum, Ken Krugman, Anne L. Nathan, Chris Peluso, Brandon Wardell and Sally Wilfert play a variety of roles in the ensemble. To view Playbill On-Line's exclusive Assassins Shooting Gallery features, focusing on all nine assassins and the actors who portray them, visit the Special Features section or click here:
Part V: Kudisch as Proprietor and Harris as Oswald. Assassins — based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. — features a book by Weidman with music and lyrics by Sondheim. Paul Gemignani — who was involved with the original Off-Broadway run — serves again as musical director. Orchestrations are by Michael Starobin. Musical staging is provided by Jonathan Butterell (Nine).
The design team for Assassins includes Robert Brill (set), Susan Hilferty (costume), Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher (lighting) and Dan Moses Schreier (sound). Hair and wig design is handled by Tom Watson while projections are by Elaine J. McCarthy.
The score includes the songs "Everybody’s Got the Right," "The Ballad of Booth," "How I Saved Roosevelt," "Gun Song," "The Ballad of Czolgosz," "Unworthy of Your Love," "The Ballad of Guiteau," "Another National Anthem," "Something Just Broke" and "Everybody’s Got the Right" (reprise). "Something Just Broke" was not featured in the original Off-Broadway run, but was added to the show for the subsequent London run directed by Sam Mendes.
Roundabout had previously slated a 2001 production of the musical which was postponed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This staging will mark the musical's Broadway premiere.
The original staging of Assassins in 1990 at Playwrights Horizons featured Jace Alexander as Oswald, Patrick Cassidy as Balladeer, Victor Garber as Booth, Greg Germann as Hinckley, Anne Golden as Fromme, Lyn Greene as Goldman, Jonathan Hadary as Guiteau, Eddie Korbich as Zangara, Terrence Mann as Czolgosz, Debra Monk as Moore and Lee Wilkof as Byck. The Jerry Zaks-directed staging lasted 71 performances.
The musical will be one of two works by the team of Sondheim and Weidman to be produced by the Roundabout this year. The company will also team up with Gorgeous Entertainment Inc. to present Pacific Overtures on Broadway in the Fall of 2004 at the same space, Studio 54.
Tickets are available at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street), by calling Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300 or online at www.roundabouttheatre.org.