See article in its original context here by Byron Bache for Crikey.
The new Melbourne production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins has its problems, but with a stellar cast and faultless material it’s still worth a look.
To most Australians, Taft is a hairspray and not a president. All but the broadest strokes of American political history are a blank for most of us, so a show about the strange assortment of people who’ve attempted to assassinate American presidents is a vastly different animal here than it is on its native turf. Assassins, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s misfit musical opened last night at fortyfivedownstairs, and like the assassins it condemns and celebrates, it hurtles towards its goals with varying degrees of success.
Assassins doesn’t really have a narrative — its events happen over a span of 166 years. We go from John Wilkes Booth, the disgruntled actor who shot Abraham Lincoln in 1865, all the way through to John Hinckley, Jr, who shot Ronald Reagan to impress a teenage Jodie Foster.
Weidman’s book sparkles like it was written yesterday, but the showpiece here really is Sondheim’s score. Twenty-three years after its off-Broadway debut, it still packs a mean punch. Arguably his only pop song, the killer love duet “Unworthy of Your Love” — sung by John Hinkley, Jr and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme not to each other but to the objects of their affection: Jodie Foster and Charles Manson — is twice as heartbreaking and three times as fascinating as anything Stephen Schwartz has turned out. Nick Simpson-Deeks as The Balladeer — who has possibly the prettiest voice in musical theatre — gets the best material in the show, sharing The Ballad of Booth and The Ballad of Guiteau with the respective assassins, and busts out his masterful acting chops in his eleven-o-clock transformation into Lee Harvey Oswald.