Yale Repertory Theatre
Yale Repertory Theatre is currently presenting an electrifying production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s musical “Assassins.” From the moment that this stunning show begins, one feels that this musical is in very good hands and it only gets better as the show goes along. “Assassins” boasts an ideal cast, with more than a few of them being Broadway regulars, and a vivid design team, all under the confident directorial hand of James Bundy. Sondheim has said on more than one occasion that he feels that “Assassins” is one of his best musicals. After seeing this goose-bump inducing production at Yale Repertory Theatre, one can’t help but agree. It is rare to see all the elements of a show come together perfectly, but such is the case with this “Assassins,” with the show packing quite a wallop.
I will confess that I have seen “Assassins” before and that I am a big fan of the show. Back in 2004, the Roundabout Theatre Company put on a superlative, Tony Award-winning revival of “Assassins,” that boasted a high-powered cast made up of Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Cerveris, Mario Cantone, and Denis O’Hare, among others. It is thus high praise to say that Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “Assassins” is just as good. And for those who only know this musical from its 1991 original cast album, the score sounds truly amazing and should satisfy the many Sondheim fanatics who will (and should) see this production at Yale Repertory Theatre.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of this “Assassins” is the extraordinary company of actors that have been assembled for this production. This cast manages to work superbly as an ensemble, with the actors also standing out individually. As John Wilkes Booth, Robert Lenzi is excellent, with a strong singing voice, and he is just as good here as he was in last year’s Broadway musical, “Tuck Everlasting.” Also shining is the animated Stephen DeRosa as Charles Guiteau, whose big number, “The Ballad of Guiteau,” is absolutely terrific.
Not to be forgotten are Julia Murney and Lauren Molina as, respectively, Sarah Jane Moore and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, both of whom tried (unsuccessfully) to assassinate Gerald Ford. Both actresses truly make the most of their parts, with Murney mining her role for all it is worth, with both comic and dramatic highlights. Molina is a riot in the book scenes, but she really comes into her own in the thrilling duet, “Unworthy of Your Love,” opposite the fine Lucas Dixon, playing John Hinckley.
As if that weren’t enough, Richard R. Henry makes for a hilarious and frightening Samuel Byck and Stanley Bahorek is equally good as Giuseppe Zangara. P. J. Griffith is almost touching as Leon Czolgosz and Austin Durant is great as the Proprieter, who opens the show. Still, mention must be made of Dylan Frederick, who plays the dual roles of the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald. Frederick is just sensational, and it says in the program that he is currently enrolled at the Yale School of Drama. Just based on his work in this show, he has quite a bright future ahead of him.
In addition to doing thrilling work with his performers, director James Bundy works wonders with his designers Riccardo Hernandez (sets), Ilona Somogyi (costumes) and Yi Zhao (lighting). Projection designer Michael Commendatore’s achievements are awesome and David Dorfman is responsible for the expert musical staging. And, speaking of music, the wonderful music director Andrea Crody leads the grand onstage orchestra (located behind the set) brilliantly. Actually, just about every aspect of Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “Assassins” is brilliant and this show ranks as an absolute must-see, especially for Sondheim enthusiasts (of which I count myself). This show is really that good.
“Assassins” continues performances at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT through April 8, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.yalerep.org or call the box office at 203-432-1234.
Photo: (L-R): The company
Photo by Carol Rosegg