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Assassins the musical

Gmerchant123 Profile Photo
Gmerchant123
Featured Actor
joined:9/9/12
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:02pm
Why did this flop? The musics so good!
DEClarke Profile Photo
DEClarke
Broadway Legend
joined:11/22/06
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:10pm
Difficult subject matter. It also asks the audience to think outside of the box and themselves.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:10pm
It's a brilliant show and I agree with you about the score. It's also very unsettling for a number of reasons (some political, some dramaturgical) that don't lend the show widespread commercial appeal.

Frankly, I think it works better in small theaters and probably should have been intended for off-Broadway from the beginning.
trentsketch Profile Photo
trentsketch
Broadway Legend
joined:6/25/09
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:13pm
It flopped? It was a limited run that was going to close after a month of performances but was extended. The reviews and reputation of the show pushed the extensions but then it couldn't sustain until September. So, they pulled back to middle of July and closed about two months after the planned limited run.
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:16pm
Didn't we decide before that a show can't technically be a "flop" by the financial definition when it's produced on Broadway by one of the non-profit companies?
tazber Profile Photo
tazber
Broadway Legend
joined:5/10/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:29pm
It certainly is not a flop as evidenced by the Tony winning revival.

It's a complex and deeply insightful work about very uncomfortable themes.

The score is wonderful. Has Sondheim ever written a more "pop" sounding ballad (musically) than Unworthy of Your Love?

I love the way he drew on various types of distinctly American music and created a veritable collage of deceptively upbeat melodies belying profoundly disturbed points of view.
....but the world goes 'round
DEClarke Profile Photo
DEClarke
Broadway Legend
joined:11/22/06
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/15/12 at 11:43pm
One of the groups in my town is doing the show this October. I interviewed the cast for houston.broadwayworld.com. It was a blast. I'm looking forward to their opening!


Referenced Article
Updated On: 9/15/12 at 11:43 PM
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 07:19pm
I don't know, tazber. I love "Unworthy of Your Love", but to my ear the creepiness is built right into it. I have trouble imagining it as a pop hit.

Speaking of hits v. flops, I think the OP just meant why didn't the show ever have a longer Broadway run? I know there were some off-stage problems, such as 9/11, that affected it, but I still think the bottom line is that it just isn't a very commercial piece.

That being said, it ran for quite awhile (by LA standards) in a smaller theater in downtown Los Angeles.
tazber Profile Photo
tazber
Broadway Legend
joined:5/10/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 07:27pm
Oh I totally agree Gaveston. It could never actually be a pop hit with those lyrics and its context. But purely in terms of melody I can see it fitting into a folk oriented station's playlist.
....but the world goes 'round
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 07:40pm
Unowrthy of your Love was meant to sound like a Carpenters song--I love it (particularly as performed on the OffBroadway original album--I'm less of a fan of theBroadway version in general but that's a different discussion). I love how it takes the obsessive love lyrics of so many pop love songs an just pushes them slightly further so that the audience hear's how dangerous and threatening they are (of course many pop love sons, when you really think about the lyrics, have that quality anyway). I can think of a few similar sounding pop pastiches by Sondheim, like Water Under the Bridge a fave of mine written for Singing Out Loud, but...

The original production never had a life in New York outside its brief Off-Broadway performance partly due to producers being scared to go near it due to the Gulf War and feelings of patriotism (or not) that it caused.

It does seem to get a LOT of regional and amateur productions, so has had a good life--particularly at universities (unless that's just some weird Canadian phenomenon). And I absolutely agree with Gaveston that it works best in a small venue (although I love Starobin's full orchestrations compared to the original three keyboard ssetup he used). I do wonder whaty the original plans were--if they would have opened it for an open end run off-Broadway or moved it to Broadway.

I have read others say that 9/11 affected the Roundabout production not being extended-=-but wasn't that three or four years after the attacks??
tazber Profile Photo
tazber
Broadway Legend
joined:5/10/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 07:43pm
It opened in 2004. I don't know if it was meant to open closer to 2001 and was pushed back because of the attacks, but I do recall hearing a lot of talk about that.

....but the world goes 'round
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 07:45pm
Oh, actually I kinda remember hearing about that too...
AlfieByrne
Stand-by
joined:8/12/09
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 07:45pm
Non-profits are tricky since ticket sales usually only cover around half of their annual operating budget. That being said, productions at non-profits DO have an initial budget and weekly operating costs, obviously. Shows like South Pacific at LCT and Good People at MTC definitely "recouped" their initial "investment" but that simply means that the "profit" are taken account into planning next season's lineup.

Because it isn't a commercial production, however, there is no practice of announcing (on Variety, etc.) that they have made a return on their initial investment.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 08:19pm
I may have caused confusion with my reference to 9/11. I was probably thinking of the original production not moving to Broadway because of the Gulf War. So sorry to all for mixing up my historical events. (I understand the producers' concern, but it's absurd to label the show anti-patriotic. It's about as patriotic as it gets, but in a thoughtful way.)

tazber, I agree. There is something deliciously "off" about the melody, but who knows? With less disturbing lyrics, that might be a plus on the radio.

Great explication, as usual, Eric. I got to see Annie Golden revisit the role in a staged reading at LA-Reprise about 10 years ago. She was basically too old to play Squeaky, but nobody cared: she was wonderful! (Patrick Cassidy revisited the Balladeer in that reading: also very, very good.)
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 08:36pm
^The revival was definitely originally announced before 9/11 and then got put on the back burner after the fact.
ComingUpRoses2 Profile Photo
ComingUpRoses2
Leading Actor
joined:3/14/11
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 08:40pm
I got to play Hinkley in a small production last year and had a blast. It's such a wonderful ensemble piece and everyone gets their chance to shine. I think that's also a main reason why it's done by a lot of colleges and regional theatres.

It's a great show with a terrific, super fast pace. If it wasn't a hit, I can only blame the audiences for being too close minded. It's a brilliant! The whole score is wonderful.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 09:22pm
"If it wasn't a hit, I can only blame the audiences for being too close minded. "

Or maybe they were just discerning.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 09:30pm
^The revival was definitely originally announced before 9/11 and then got put on the back burner after the fact.

Thank you, CATS. It's always a lovely surprise when my recollection turns out to be correct!

***

P.S. to Eric: no, it isn't just Canadian colleges who do the show. I taught it for years and my students mounted at least three productions in 8 years. It's a great show for students because all the characters are so rich.
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 09:34pm
It's the only "later" Sondheim show I genuinely like.
That being said, the score really outweighs the book, which I feel lacks a lot of depth (Clumsy Ford jokes?). The songs do nearly all the dramatic lifting in the show, which is fine... except that some characters rely nearly exclusively on the book scenes for development and psychological insight.
Even in the book depository scene, which is arguably the strongest book scene, things don't get really interesting until music takes over.

However, the score is really great and not a single number is expendable.

I don't begrudge the initial cool reaction to the original production. The musical was a little before its time; exploring the flip side to the American dream is more common now.
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 09:44pm
Kad, just out of curiousity, what do you mean by later Sondheim--? Is that post Merrily? or?

I do think the songs are stronger (although as described in Look I MAde a Hat, some of the songs were originally scenes that SOndheim then adapted for song). But I do think the lighter scenes work well against the score.
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 09:52pm
For me, "later" Sondheim is basically Assassins to the present. I always found that something sets the shows he wrote after Into the Woods apart from the rest.
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 10:08pm
Ah I guess I mentally divide them between Hal Prince and James Lapine, but Passion is an absolute fave.
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 10:13pm
For me, it goes early (pre-Company), middle/ "Golden" (Company - Into the Woods), later (Assassins - Road Show). Just my own personal distinctions.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 10:15pm
I also divide Sondheim's work into "with Prince" and "with Lapine". Apparently, so does the lyricist since his books are divided accordingly.

But I agree with Kad that something also changes after ASSASSINS. For one thing, Sondheim greatly reduces the cleverness of his lyrics and the frequency of his rhymes: a deliberate choice, obviously, but not always a happy one for me. I understand that he is indicating characters driven by emotion rather than intellect, but I miss the sheer joy of hearing his wordplay in the theater.

It's as if Shakespeare decided to write like Ibsen. I'm sure he could do so very well, but I would miss the verse.

(ETA Oops, I misquoted Kad above. He categorizes ASSASSINS with later shows such as PASSION, not with earlier ones such as ITW. I apologize for the error, Kad.)
Updated On: 9/17/12 at 10:15 PM
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 10:21pm
I agree, Gaveston; and ironically, I find Passion and Road Show to be his coldest scores (and I don't agree with the "Sondheim is cold" argument when it's made to his earlier works).

And then his supplementary material for The Frogs just flat-out sucks, with the exception of "Ariadne", which is marred by a rather abrupt change of tone.
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Assassins the musical
Posted: 9/17/12 at 10:30pm
I agree with Frogs (a show I forgot about actually)--I really love the choral stuff from the 1970s original, but the new score (Ariadne aside) does nothing for me.

Gaveston, Passionobviously has a far simpler lyrical style than Sondheim is known for, but he seems to be trying to go back to that with Road Show, IMHO.

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