Assassins opened at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center this past weekend, and it is a remarkable production. The show’s basic plot is this: it is a musical about a number of the men and women who attempted to assassinate the President of the United States. However, the show is so much more than that. Assassins is a show that not only tells the story of the people who tried to assassinate the President of the United States, but it is also thought provoking and smartly comedic. You will see Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme sing about her love for Charles Manson, Charles Giteau sing and dance to his execution, and John Wilkes Booth sing about his reasons for killing Lincoln. Assassins, in my opinion, is one of the best Sondheim shows I have seen. The show is edgy, it starts a conversation, and it is highly entertaining. EPAC’s production of Assassins is a triumphant success, and the cast is phenomenal, energetic, and commanding.
The music and lyrics for Assassins was written by Stephen Sondheim, and John Weidman wrote the book. The show opened off-Broadway in 1990, and the revival opened on Broadway in 2004. The revival of Assassins had a cast starring Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Cerveris, and Dennis O’Hare. The show also won five Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Director.
EPAC’s production of Assassins achieves something that it difficult to do in this show: a smart balance between humor, edginess and an examination of the American dream from a skewed viewpoint. This show achieves artistic perfection, and the cast and crew under the direction of Edward Fernandez deserve recognition for this. Assassins is staged as if you are watching the show at a carnival, and the show is complete with a Proprietor, who acts as a Carnival Barker. Evan Cooper plays this role, and he is fantastic in the role. The entire cast of Assassins is outstanding. John Wilkes Booth played by Sean Young, brings an intensity to the role, and he is perfect for this part. He is passionate, and his vocals are strong especially in “The Ballad of Booth.” Darren Wagner portrays Charles Guiteau, and he is humorous and brilliant in this part. The song, “The Ballad Guiteau,” is full of energy and humor. This character made the audience laugh the entire evening. Bob Checchia plays Samuel Byck, and he has this ability to smoothly change from humor to anger in the show. Martha Wasser portrays Lynne “Squeaky” Fromme, and she is wonderfully animated in this part. Her eyes and facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission. Sean Deffley plays John Hinckley Jr. and he is forceful and creepy in this part. Deffley depicts Hinckley’s fervent adoration for Jodie Foster, and how it evolves into obsession. The duet between Deffley and Wasser is beautiful. Sara Jane Moore is played by Elizabeth Pattey. Pattey is a force in this role, and she has the audience laughing while portraying the scatterbrained Moore. Preston Schreffler portrays Leon Czolgosz, and he successfully conveys the shyness and awkwardness of Czolgosz. Corey Buller plays Giuseppe Zangara and flawlessly expresses the sternness of the character. Rounding out this cast is Tim Reilly as the Balladeer. Reilly’s voice is magnificent, and he is sensational in this part. His voice is very closely reminiscent of the Balladeer in the revival who was portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris.
The artistic crew also needs mentioning for Assassins. The Musical Director is JP Meyer. Jordon Ross Weinhold serves as the Assisstant Director. The Light Designer is Jeff Cusano. Evan Hill is the Set Designer who designed the incredible set. Pat Kautter is the choreographer. In addition, Kate Wilman is the costume designer who is responsible for creating the costumes, and each costume is lovingly detailed to reflect its unique time period.
Assassins is a musical that is spell-binding, unsettling, and outstanding. This is why EPAC’s Assassins is a must see show. The show runs through November 2, 2013. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.ephrataperformingartscenter.com or call their box office at 717-733-7966.
Final Thought: EPAC’s production of Assassins is brilliant. It is the perfect balance of humor, a thought-provoking dialogue and a sensational score. Do not miss this show, it is another perfect production from EPAC.
Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she writes for the online sites broadwayworld.com and figlancaster.com and is a freelance writer. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on twitter @theatrescribe and on Facebook/theatresensation.