|Chad Campbell, Don Crosby, Casey Karapetian, Michael Stewart, Sky Donovan, Libby Mueller, Ryan Jordan,|
Nick Hambruch, and Chris Chavez
Photo by Patty Torrilhon
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 20th.
"...The musical Assassins puts the dreams and beliefs of nine would be (including four successful) presidential assassins on display with a witty Stephen Sondheim score and an interesting, though not quite successful, book by John Weidman. Fountain Hills Theater presents a fairly good and timely production running right around the presidential election. Set in a quasi-purgatory shooting range overseen by a carny midway proprietor, the show sets up several interwoven vignettes in which the nine assassins occasionally interact across time periods. ...While we learn a little more about some of the lesser known individuals, it is the stories of (John Wilkes) Booth and (Lee Harvey) Oswald that hold the production together, including an extended scene set right before Kennedy's assassination in which all of the killers appear to tell Oswald that by killing Kennedy it will validate them all. I understand that Sondheim and Weidman are providing an alternate riff on the American Dream that everyone aspires to. ...However, I'm not sure if it's the fact that the show is disturbing or if it's because the show is unapologetic toward these killers that makes it a little hard to digest, especially when it simply attempts to present them as normal, quirky and/or mentally disturbed people who had scores to settle or issues they felt could only be solved by assassinating a president....while Sondheim's score sardonically comments on the killers' actions, the book's attempts to rationalize their behavior with an ending that states that "everybody's got the right to be happy" just fall flat when you are talking about individuals who are murderers. ...The Fountain Hills cast is fairly good. With a commanding presence, Michael Stewart does very well as Booth, painting him as a political idealist with a certain amount of introspective thought. He and Matt McDonald, as the Proprietor, deliver rich performances of two very seductive men. Also quite good are the duo of Libby Mueller and Ryan Jordan as Sara Jane Moore and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. They provide much of the comedy in the show along with well thought out portrayals. While Jordan is appropriately innocent and spacy, and Mueller is quite unhinged and wacky, their performances are still serious and realistic.
...Director Peter Hill ...effectively stages the action close to the audience which, combined with the intimacy of the small space, provides plenty of chills and even makes some moments unsettling. Hill also designed the superb set ...It's one of the best and effective stage designs I've seen all year...
While not a completely successful musical, Assassins does have much to recommend it, especially the superb Sondheim score and the intriguing way the show portrays the interaction of these killers across time. Fountain Hills' production features a good cast, clear direction, and a terrific set design which, when combined with the intimate space, provide some truly chilling, thrilling and theatrical moments." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"...Stephen Sondheim’s concept musical is a wryer-than-wry character study of the deranged fraternity of killers and would-be killers of presidents...features singers ranging from pretty good to pretty bad, but it delivers some moments that are as thrillingly entertaining as anyone could ask for. ..Unevenly performed, but Sondheim’s sardonic diagnosis of democracy’s dysfunctional underbelly shines through." - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)