Assassins is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by John Weidman, with inspiration from Charles Gilbert Jr. It began off-Broadway on 1990-12-18, but didn't do too well. It was redesigned for Broadway in 2004, and was much more successful. The musical focuses on the people who have assassinated or attempted to assassinate U.S. presidents. It describes how they did it, and explores their motives for doing so, ultimately culminating in them trying to convince Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
My friend Danielle invited my wife and me to see this show, and I really enjoyed it. She lent me her soundtrack which allowed me to become better accustomed to the songs, and then I saw it again with her in Flint. It has sense become one of my favorite musicals.
I have seen this musical twice.
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- The music and lyrics are fantastic. In particular I love The Ballad of Booth, The Ballad of Czolgosz, and The Ballad of Guiteau.
- I appreciate that the assassins are not viewed as horrible monsters, but rather people who go to extremes. This helps humanize them and reminds of that even ordinary people have the potential to do great evil if left to their own devices.
- Likewise, it's right that Booth uses a racial slur to remind people of his beliefs and culture.
- On it's surface, the musical takes a blasé approach to gun murder, but after you understand it, it's pretty clear that it's demonstrating that murder and guns are evils that don't have the intended effect of the perpetrators. Lyrics like, "A gun kills many men before it's done, hundreds, long before you shoot the gun," and, "while Lincoln, who got mixed reviews, because of you, John, now gets only raves." Not to mention those who favor the guns are the villains.
- The final scene with all the assassins trying to convince Oswald to murder Kennedy is a really powerful scene.
- I love the fact that the musical doesn't resort to hokey lame jokes like so many musicals.
- I view the duet of Hinckley and Fromme and the narration of Byck to be be low points.
- I fear that the message of how ineffectual assassination ends up being may be lost on people. Not that it will cause them to try and murder politicians, just that they will see the assassins as heroes rather than villains.