Assassins Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
Directed by Nicholas Murphy
Cornerstone Theatre Company
Presented at The Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL
Anyone can grow up to be President, but the really exclusive club belongs to those who attempted to assassinate a President. In this unlikely musical, Stephen Sondheim unites his dense musical stylings with vignettes of the disaffected and often unhinged set of men and women who turned simple murder into a political act. John Wilkes Booth (Thom Mesrobian) was the sanest; he plugged Lincoln thinking that would start a revolution. He can quote Shakespeare, but all he did was get himself burned alive while boosting Lincoln’s shaky poll numbers. Other assassins are nearly forgotten, the wild eyed Charles Guiteau (Bruce Costella) wanted to be ambassador to France but spoiled his chances when he shot Garfield, Stomach pain made Giuseppe Zangara (Joshua Lamboy) shoot the mayor of Chicago while aiming for FDR, and Sam Byck (Brett Carson) innovated the idea of crashing a commercial jetliner into the White House, although that plot never got off the ground.
While this is no love story, the music is interesting; “Ballad of Booth” and “Unworthy of Your Love” are almost hummable and the cast excellent. While Mesrobian is bit old to play the 28 year old Booth his voice is astounding and we can cut historical figure on stage some slack as long as he can sing. My favorite assassin was the spring wound Costella, when he first appears he comes off as a self-promoter but his inner wacko seeps out as the show progresses. Lynnette Fromme (Heather Lamboy) is great as the underfed hippy chick in love with Charles Manson, and even though her politics don’t mesh well with homey Sara Jane Moore (Mary Lee Carter) they make a great gal team of incompetent gunwomen. The Balladeer (Chaz Kriven) guides us through the history and then becomes history himself as he morphs into Lee Harvey Oswald. In the very disturbing last scene, the assassins convince him not to commit suicide, but rather commit murder. He doesn’t protest as much as you might hope, and just before that fatal shot someone points out helpfully: “All these red necks have three names.”
Cornerstone returns will another solidly built show that brings excellent new actors to stage. They continue to put amazing sets into small spaces, and while this company is new it’s extremely professional and has never disappointed. They’ve even linked in with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, so you might even claim a little civics extra credit for this show.
For more information on Cornerstone Theatre Company please visit http://www.cornerstonetheatrecompany.com/