Assassins – Gate Theatre – Review by Simon Jewell
12th April – 9th June, 2018
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
Runs: 12th April – 9th June 2018
The Tony Award-winning ‘Assassins’ is now at the Gate Theatre. Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical examines the lives and motivations of nine unrelated people who attempted to assassinate the president of the United States of America. The assassins range from the infamous John Wilkes Booth (Matthew Seadon-Young), the delusional Charles Manson follower Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme (Kate Gilmore) to Lee Harvey Oswald (Gerard Kelly). Each of them are united in their aspirations of being remembered, but for all the wrong reasons.
“Come here and kill a President” The Proprietor of the gallery (Nicholas Pound) calls out dressed as Uncle Sam with clown makeup, as he gathers a ragtag group of misfits together for shooting practice. Instead of staring down the barrel of these deranged, sociopathic monsters this production provides an insight into a flaw in the DNA of the American dream. It’s a unique structure for a musical, as each assassin gets a chance to validate their reasoning of reaching the point of no return (albeit through a song and dance).
‘Assassins’ was first produced as an off-broadway musical in 1990, yet its underlying message of violence and disillusionment have never been so poignantly relevant. “Every now and then the country goes a little wrong”, the Balladeer sings as he unites these warped individuals into becoming famous and relevant for their actions.
Selina Cartmell’s production brilliantly captures the essence of Stephen Sondheim’s beautifully scored musical. ‘Assassins’ is part of The Gate’s inaugural season entitled ‘The Outsider (Season 1)’ in which this production is poignantly tailored. There is quite an eerie sense to the score, with its upbeat, showbiz tunes, whilst the actors melodise about murder and guns. It’s ambitious to see a production like this on a traditional stage such as The Gate. It’s powerful, daring and the musical numbers are well crafted with some impressive performances from the large ensemble cast.
Whilst the plot sometimes becomes inconsequential as the script looks to tie in these strangers in whatever way possible (the final scene where all the actors attempted to convince Lee Harvey Oswald to join them in immortal notoriety seemed a little far-fetched), the entertaining musicality and choreography overcome these elements and are a joy to experience. Even for those with an unfavourable disposition towards musicals, it is hugely entertaining and flows between powerful emotionally revealing scenes to pitch-perfect ensemble chorus singing. It’s vaudevillian comedy at its best, added with Sondheim’s wonderfully crafted musical numbers that will leave you humming them long into the night.
Photographs: Agata Stoinska
Cast & Crew
Cast includes: Rory Corcoran, Muiris Crowley, Brian Gilligan, Kate Gilmore, Dan Gordon, Ger Kelly, Andrew Linnie, Aoibhéann McCann, Ruth McGill, Sam McGovern, Helen Norton, Rachel O’Byrne, Mark O’Regan, Nicholas Pound, Matthew Seadon- Young.
Musical DirectorCathal Synnott
Set & Costume DesignerSarah Bacon
Lighting DesignerSinéad McKenna
Sound DesignerAlexis Nealon
Associate DirectorMarc Atkinson