All The Presidents' Men: Tony-Winning Assassins Revival Closes on Broadway, July 18
By Ernio Hernandez
"The President's been shot," the repeated spoken lyric in the song "Something Just Broke," will be heard for the last time on the Studio 54 stage as Assassins closes on Broadway, July 18.
The Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins staged to Tony Award-winning success by Joe Mantello (Wicked, Take Me Out ) will end its acclaimed Broadway run following the 7PM showing, having played 26 previews and 101 performances.
The new staging began on performances March 31 and opened on Broadway April 22, more than a decade after its sold-out (but critically-panned) debut Off-Broadway. Buoyed by its five Tony wins, the most Tony Awards of any show at the 2004 ceremony, the production announced its second extension through Sept. 12. Slow advance sales, however, forced the non-profit to rescind that extension.
Sondheim alluded to a possible tour in a recent Bloomberg interview, saying "A big producing company I cannot name believes there's an audience for it. If they can make it work financially, they will tour it. We'll hear very soon." Production spokespersons could not confirm any information.
The lauded revival will live on in a PS Classics cast album set for an Aug. 3 release. The recording will boast the premiere of the song "Something Just Broke" (added to the musical for its London debut). Visit www.psclassics.com.
Turning the Studio 54 stage into the underbelly of a carnival roller coaster — complete with shooting gallery, spinning wheel and unobtainable prizes — the musical revival theatrically retold the stories of the nine individuals who took aim at eight different presidents. The stageshow filled with song anachronistically weaves together scenes wherein all four successful and five attempted assassins interact with one another.
The ensemble cast featured 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) broodingly portrays William McKinley killer, Leon Czolgosz. Denis O'Hare (Take Me Out) cakewalks as the eccentric office seeker and James Garfield murderer, Charles Guiteau. Mario Cantone (The Violet Hour) tackles the role of 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 fatales, Sara Jane Moore and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, respectively.
John Schiappa — who replaced 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.
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 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.
Roundabout had previously slated a 2001 production of the musical which was postponed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This staging marked the musical's Broadway premiere.
The production garnered musical Tony Awards for Best Featured Actor (Michael Cerveris), Best Direction (Joe Mantello), Best Orchestrations (Michael Starobin), Best Lighting Design (Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher) and the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.
The next Roundabout presentation that will inhabit Studio 54 — dubbed the non profit's "home for musical theatre and special events" — will be another Sondheim Weidman musical, Pacific Overtures.
Assassins played at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). For more information, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.
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