Sondheim "Assassins" revival hits the mark in London

Wed Dec 10, 2014 5:07am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - A hush comes over the audience when one of the actors slowly revolves full circle while aiming a pistol at spectators in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's 1990 musical "Assassins" at an intimate London theater-in-the-round.

The gunman is out to kill an American president. The pistol is fake, but looks real.

This dark musical by the creator of "Sweeney Todd", "Into the Woods" and "Sunday in the Park with George" seems to live under a star of unintentional relevance to current events.

A revival originally scheduled for 2001 in New York was postponed after the Sept. 11 airliner attacks. One of the "assassins" in the musical is the late Samuel Byck, who plotted to fly a hijacked plane into the White House to kill Richard Nixon.

This latest revival hits home in part because of the seemingly endless stream of gun violence news from the United States, most recently the police killings of unarmed black men.

Some of the assassins or would-be killers are shown as ineffectual or scatterbrained, like Sara Jane Moore (played by Catherine Tate), who tried to kill Gerald Ford.

John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln's assassin, is played by Aaron Tveit as a sinister godfather and inspiration to succeeding generations of president-killers.

But all of the assassins are armed and when they point their weapons at the spectators, there is an urge to duck under the bench seats.   Continued...

Cast member Aaron Tveit speaks during the panel for the USA Network television series "Graceland" at the 2013 Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni