Assassins (musical)

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Assassins is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. It uses the premise of a murderous carnival game to produce a revue-style portrayal of men and women who attempted (successfully or otherwise) to assassinate Presidents of the United States. The music varies to reflect the popular music of the eras depicted.

The musical first opened Off-Broadway in 1990, and the 2004 Broadway production won five 2004 Tony Awards.


History and productions

As a panelist at producer Stuart Ostrow's Musical Theater Lab, Sondheim read a script by playwright Charles Gilbert. Sondheim asked Gilbert for permission to use his idea. Gilbert consented and offered to write the book; but Sondheim declined, having already had collaborator John Weidman in mind. Weidman had written the book for Pacific Overtures and would work with Sondheim again on Road Show.[1]

Assassins opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on December 18, 1990, with 73 performances under Jerry Zaks' direction. The cast included Victor Garber, Terrence Mann, Patrick Cassidy, Debra Monk, Greg Germann, and Annie Golden. The run sold out. Frank Rich, a long-time fan of Sondheim, said "Assassins will have to fire with sharper aim and fewer blanks if it is to shoot to kill."[2]

On October 29, 1992, Assassins opened in London at the Donmar Warehouse with a cast that included Henry Goodman as Charles Guiteau and Louise Gold as Sara Jane Moore. The show ran for 76 performances, closing on January 9, 1993.[3]

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