By Mark Shenton
30 Jun 2010
Directed and staged by Michael Strassen, with musical supervision by Chris Mundy and musical direction by Michael Bradley, the production features a cast with a strong West End pedigree, including Glyn Kerslake (Scrooge, The Phantom of the Opera, Martin Guerre, Les Miserables) as John Wilkes Booth, John Barr (Batboy, Ragtime, Aspects of Love, Les Miserables) as Charles Guiteau, Nick Holder (National Theatre's Sweeney Todd, South Pacific, The Wind in the Wollows, West End's The Drowsy Chaperone, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables) as Samuel Byck and Lisa Stokke (original Sophie in Mamma Mia!, Guys and Dolls) as Emma Goldman.
Also in the cast are Adam Jarrell (Leon Czolgosz), Joe Alessi (Giuseppe Zangara), Alison Larnder (Lynette Fromme), Leigh McDonald (Sara Jane Moore), Paul Callen (John Hinkley), Marc Joseph (Lee Havey Oswald), and Nolan Frederick (Balladeer), with David Brooks, Neil Canfer, Anthony Delaney, Hannah Bingham and Holly Easterbrook completing the ensemble. It is produced by Regan/de Wynter.
The musical explores the history of presidential assassination in America, from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley, Jr. According to Michael Strassen's director's note, "Assassins first opened at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan during the 1991 Gulf War, to packed houses, of which the audience either embraced the subject matter or rejected it depending on their political slant to the then current President and the war itself. In many ways the show's real subject matter was hijacked, as Assassins isn't so much about political murder but lost and angry individuals, those who fall off the American dream machine. I have always loved the show and its often hilarious, often moving statements on why any individual would feel the need to remove America’s ultimate symbol, its President… It was during President Obama's inauguration that ‘Assassins’ came back into my mind. All the TV chat about the risk of assassination from white supremists, the huge thick glass around every moment and how very brave I thought he was, how it would be almost impossible to eradicate the worry, especially for his wife, as close to him as Jackie was to Kennedy that fateful day. I found this very moving. Their bravery breathtaking. It was this that gave me the idea of making our story teller in Assassins, The Balladeer, a black actor in the guise of Obama, with his ensemble of protection officers, one of which is a bad apple who invites ghosts of the past to re visit their crimes. The balladeer then shows us the journey of America’s dangerous presidential past."