Edinburgh Reviews: Assassins

Stephen Sondheim’s musical about the various people to have attempted (successfully or otherwise) to assassinate presidents of the USA, from John Wilkes Booth onwards, is not your average musical, with no chorus to speak of, and a subject matter that could easily make for a monotonously dark show. To make it work, the show must be intelligently performed and directed, and this production pulled it off admirably. The opening song was a little bit weak in the singing department (I thought), but the rest of the show was slick, engagingly performed, funny where it should be, and dark where it should be, culminating in a scene where the other assassins all urge Lee Harvey Oswald to go through with his attempt on JFK’s life, because his act gives the rest of them context and meaning.

The show is very Sondheim musically, with songs being used to explore the minds of the assassins and their place in history, intelligently written but rarely the kind of song you come away humming. A small band did a good job, complimenting the polished performances on stage. Very little set to speak of, and a rather unambitious lighting design, meant that the show was technically unadventurous, but was at least radio miced competently.

If Kiss of the Spider Woman made me want to see someone do their show on a larger, professional scale, then Assassins made me want to go and be involved in a production of my own.

4/5

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