Broadway Scene Stealers: The Men

By Ben Rimalower
13 Aug 2013

James Barbour
Photo by Joan Marcus

8. James Barbour, Assassins

There was a lot of great acting on stage in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway production of Assassins in 2004 (the show's main stem premiere), and several of the performances were honored with Tony nominations and other laurels — Michael Cerveris even won the Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony for his role as John Wilkes Booth. When I saw this production of Assassins, I had already seen several incarnations of the piece over the years and brought a certain amount of expectation to my experiences of the performances.

The actor who most confounded those preconceptions and whose chilling performance has most stayed with me was James Barbour as Leon Czolgosz. He exhibited such vulnerability and tenderness, like a wounded puppy and then, in the style of that production with the entire ensemble almost always onstage, he maintained a lurking presence as we watched his broken heart give way to rage and, of course, the killing of President McKinley. For me, he was the heart of the show. Even as Neil Patrick Harris (as the Balladeer) sang one of the show's peppiest and most melodic songs ("The Ballad of Czolgosz"), I couldn't take my eyes off Barbour, who was standing silently.



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