Neil Patrick Harris, Marc Kudisch, Michael Cerveris Take Aim in Assassins, Again, for Benefit Concert on Broadway
By Kenneth Jones
Roundabout Theatre Company's musical theatre producing arm benefits from a Dec. 3 Broadway reunion concert of the company's 2004 Tony Award-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins. Neil Patrick Harris, Denis O'Hare, Marc Kudisch, Becky Ann Baker and Michael Cerveris are among the returning troupers at Studio 54. The full cast is back.
The staging is again directed by Joe Mantello, who won the Tony for Best Direction for the earlier production. The dark musical explores the characters, motivations and social climates attached to U.S. presidential assassinations, attempted and realized. Cerveris played John Wilkes Booth and took home the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
The production marked the Broadway debut of a property that already had a 1991 Off-Broadway staging and cast album. PS Classics ended up recording the Broadway cast, too, offering the most complete disc of the Americana-laced show set in the conceptual world of a carnival's shooting gallery, where scenes and people emerge from the shadows.
In addition to the Tony for Cerveris and Mantello, the 2004 production won Tonys for Best Revival of a Musical, Orchestrations (Michael Starobin) and Lighting Design (Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer). O'Hare was nominated as Featured Actor in a Musical for playing Charles Guiteau, killer of President Garfield.
Reuniting for the 7:30 PM one-night-only show under the music-direction of Paul Gemignani are Becky Ann Baker (as Sara Jane Moore), James Barbour (Leon Czolgosz), Mario Cantone (Samuel Byck), Michael Cerveris (John Wilkes Booth), Mary Catherine Garrison (Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme), Alexander Gemignani (John Hinckley), Neil Patrick Harris (Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald), Marc Kudisch (Proprietor), Jeffrey Kuhn (Giuseppe Zangara) and Denis O'Hare (Charles Guiteau).
The 2012 company also includes ensemble cast members from the original 2004 production, including Merwin Foard, Eamon Foley, Ken Krugman, Anne L. Nathan, Chris Peluso, Brandon Wardell and Sally Wilfert.
Todd Haimes, the artistic director of Roundabout, said in an earlier statement, "Roundabout's ongoing relationship with Stephen Sondheim has meant so much to this theatre over the years. Assassins was an incredibly proud moment for all of us, and I know that it will be thrilling to revisit Joe Mantello's brilliant production, especially with the original cast. We are so grateful to Mary Jo and Ted Shen, whose lead support allows us to present this reunion concert reading of Assassins and to raise important funds for Roundabout's Musical Theatre Program."
Here's how RTC characterizes the experience: "Assassins is the show that gives new meaning to the phrase 'killer musical.' With a stylish Stephen Sondheim score and a provocative book by John Weidman, Assassins brings to the stage a (shooting) gallery of some of history's most notorious players — the men and women who attempted to kill American Presidents. This striking work looks at the lives, loves and lunacy of nine American assassins, including John Wilkes Booth, John Hinckley, Lee Harvey Oswald and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. Both serious and satirical, the musical asks what hunger drove these people to their actions and what binds them all together. Is that drive what makes them quintessentially American?"
Roundabout's relationship with composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim includes five Tony Award-nominated Sondheim revivals including Company (1995), Follies (2001), Assassins (2004), Pacific Overtures (2004) and Sunday in the Park with George (2008). In 2005, Roundabout honored Sondheim with the Jason Robards Award for Excellence in Theatre "for the indelible impact his life's work has made on the theatre world." In 2010, Roundabout's third Broadway home, the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, was named in his honor.
All proceeds benefit not-for-profit Roundabout Theatre Company and all its programs and activities.
Major support for the benefit performance of Assassins is provided by presenters Mary Jo and Ted Shen.
Roundabout Theatre Company is a not-for-profit theatre dedicated to "providing a nurturing artistic home for theatre artists at all stages of their careers where the widest possible audience can experience their work at affordable prices." It operates two Off-Broadway spaces (Laura Pels Theatre and Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre) and three Broadway theatres (Studio 54, the Sondheim and the American Airlines Theatre).
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