'Assassins' delves into minds of killers

LA HABRA -- Stephen Sondheim's bold, gripping and provocative musical, "Assassins," runs at the La Habra Depot Theatre through April 5.A 7-piece orchestra supports this Tony Award winning musical's darkly-comic and compelling look at the lives, loves and legacies of nine presidential assassins. The production is directed by David Anthony Blair and Stephen Hulsey musically directs. "Assassins" is by no means a conventional musical. It delves into the minds of those nine people, including John Wilks Booth, who either failed or succeeded in the obscene practice of assassinating American presidents. Constructed in a form somewhere in the twilight zone between book musical and all-star revue, Sondheim's most controversial musical tells the story of presidential want-to-be killers who, through madness or political conviction (or both), too often succeeded in changing the course of history and bringing immense pain to the world. In addition to Booth, the assassins and would-be assassins featured are Charles Guiteau, who killed James Garfield; Leon Czolgosz, who murdered William McKinley; Giuseppe Zangara, who tried to kill President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt; Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated John F. Kennedy; Samuel Byck, who tried to kill Richard Nixon; Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, who shot at Gerald Ford; and John Hinckley, who shot Ronald Reagan. Crossing the lines of time and space, the assassins talk and sing to one another. On a surreal set that includes gallows, an electric chair, enormous counterfeit-quality five-dollar bills and a multimedia presentation of the Zapruder film of JFK's fateful day in Dallas, the assassins gather to reenact their tales of disillusionment, rage and dreams gone awry. John Wilkes Booth, who serves as their leader, declares "no one can be put in jail for their dreams," and encourages them to grab their share of the American Dream by pulling the trigger. "While Booth's actions in real life were definitely evil, he believed what he was doing was important and necessary for the nation," said Alex Warren, who plays Booth. "I can't play him googly-eyed crazy." "Assassins" has intrigued audiences with its musical travelogue through American history and wide-ranging song styles from the era of each assassin, including show tunes, barbershop quartets, spirituals, soft rock and folk. Through his score, Sondheim compels the audience to come to grips with this group of misfits and crazy zealots, whose only common ground may be their dissatisfaction with how the American dream has eluded them. Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's "Assassins" opened in 1990 to theatrical and box office success, but abruptly closed because of the politically volatile time that followed 9/11. The musical roared back on Broadway in 2004 and received five Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival. "Assassins" runs through April 5 on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $12.50 for students and seniors. Reservations are available by calling (562) 905-9625 or online at www.lhdepottheatre.org. The play contains some adult language. ********** Published: March 20, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 48