Theatre Review: Assassins

Assassins is a challenging piece, musically complex and an acting challenge for the 10 actors who bring to life the men and women who assassinated, or attempted to, a US president.

Presented by: The Hills Musical Company

Reviewed: 08/11/2019

Assassins opened at the Stirling theatre on Friday 8 November just shy of 30 years after its original opening Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in December 1990. It is a hard-hitting satire. The original storyline was written by Charles Gilbert and Stephen Sondheim asked his permission to develop it, in collaboration with John Weidman. The result was an extraordinary piece of vibrant, engaging and challenging Music Theatre in the style and complexity of a true Sondheim musical.

It’s a challenging piece, musically complex and an acting challenge for the 10 actors who bring to life the men and women who assassinated, or attempted to, a US president. The 10 Actors who brought these characters to life were certainly on their game and the supporting ensemble didn’t miss a beat. Megan Donald’s Proprietor opened the show and her colourful and dynamic presence got the show off to a flying start, though I felt her diction left a lot to be desired, or maybe it was the rather poor sound support which at times during the evening left a lot to be desired. At times it sounded like the sound balance was better suited to a rock concert than a musical and the voices got mixed far too far back. It made some of the excellent work by the performers very difficult to understand. But I digress. Everybody’s Got The Right introduces us to the assassins one by one and it’s a dynamic and interesting start to an evening filled with Sondheim magic.

John Wilkes Booth (David MacGillivray) and the Balladeer (Robbie Mitchell) kick us into the action with The Ballad Of Booth. Mitchell drives this show with his clear tenor voice and immaculate diction and MacGillivray is an ample foil to bring great life and action to the work. They match each other in energy and style.

How I Saved Roosevelt showcases Megan Doherty’s vocal and acting versatility, but I couldn’t get past the fact that Guiseppe Zangara was a healthy, full blooded, male. I am always willing to suspend belief but as the musical is clearly based on historical fact, I was rather distracted by Ms Doherty’s obvious femininity which couldn’t be hidden by the costume. The ensemble added a vitality and drive to the number that was stylish and engaging.

Sara Jane Moore (Bronwyn James), Leon Czolgosz (Tom Dubois) John Wilkes Booth (David MacGillivray) and Charles Guiteau (Robin Schmelzkopf) brought life and energy to The Gun Song.

The Balladeer’s rendition of The Ballad of Czolgosz was one of the highlights of the evening. Robbie Mitchell’s effortless vocal ability is a real highlight of this show. Unworthy Of Your Love comes hot on the heels of this ballad and Casmira Hambledon and Dylan Rufus are beautifully matched in their work. Another highlight.

The Ballad Of Guiteaugave Robin Schmelzkopf and Robbie Mitchell a chance to showcase their talents and Another National Anthemwith its dissonant and strident collaborative challenge to the audience was finely judged if a little out of tune at times.

Something Just Broke which was added after the original run and the Lee Harvey Oswald scene (another really finely judged piece of work by Robbie Mitchell as Lee Harvey Oswald and the other assassins) were additions to the show that serve to further underpin the vicious satirical voice that drives this show.

There was some fine acting to underpin the journey of the piece which could suffer from jumping from era to era but it has been seamlessly staged by Macintyre Howie Reeves and Monique Hapgood.  Particular mention of the scenes between Bronwyn James and Casmira Hambledon and David MacGillivray and Robbie Mitchell; they crackled with energy and had great pace which drove the story forward.

Andrew Groch led the band and the performers with style and flair. Though I must ask what everyone tuned to. There was no violin to give a universal tuning to. Perhaps you should tune to the violin on the programmed track; it was a bit of a ropey start.

This show is really well put together, very well cast and will run itself in beautifully after it finds its feet and grows into it paws. It is an excellent night out and if you love Sondheim don’t miss it.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Venue: Stirling Community Theatre

Season: November 8th 9th 15th 16th 21st 22nd 23rd at 8.00pm. Sun 17th at 2pm.

Duration: 1 hour 50 mins No interval

Tickets: Adults $34,00 Student/Pensioner/Concession $29.00 Groups (8 or more) $26.00

Bookings: www.hillsmusical.org.au/tickets

Photo credit: Mark Anolak

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