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BWW Album Review: ASSASSINS (The 2022 Off-Broadway Cast Recording) is Pistol-Smart and Deeply Satisfying

The joy in the album comes from hearing this cast interrupt these roles and sing these wildly complex songs.

BWW Album Review: ASSASSINS (The 2022 Off-Broadway Cast Recording) is Pistol-Smart and Deeply Satisfying

Earlier this spring, Broadway Records released ASSASSINS (The 2022 Off-Broadway Cast Recording), giving fans of Stephen Sondheim our third English language commercially released recording of this brilliant score. Like almost every major production of the musical before it, Classic Stage Company's ASSASSINS was negatively affected by happenings in the country. The beginning of the COVID pandemic postponed the show, and the Omicron wave forced it to close early. Luckily, Broadway Records recorded this cast, preserving their wonderfully nuanced performances and giving countless people the chance to hear them.

Since 1991 this darkly comic musical has perplexed and captivated audiences as it keenly brought to light the disillusionment of the American Dream. A carnival shooting gallery fever dream where successful and would-be presidential assassins all get the chance to mix, mingle, and tell their stories is definitely unlikely musical theater fare; yet, this pistol-smart musical has spoken to the psyches of theater-goers for decades. It also only proves to be more and more prescient as time marches on.

Eddie Cooper's Proprietor and Ethan Slater's Balladeer expertly guide listeners through this fantasia on American resentment painted in the hues and hubris of perverse patriotic violence. Cooper's warm vocals are instantly inviting on "Everyone's Got the Right." Once he layers in the darkness on lyrics like "Want to shoot a president?," we've already been fully conned and are willing to be swindled by his misaligned promises of being deserving of our happiness and dreams. Similarly, Slater's vibrant instrument reaches out to our ears like a close friend drawing us in for an enthusiastic hug. We can't help but listen to every word as he tells tales on "The Ballad of Booth," "The Ballad of Czolgosz," and others.

As an ensemble piece, the standout numbers on ASSASSINS (The 2022 Off-Broadway Cast Recording) are the more ensemble-heavy pieces. "Everybody's Got the Right," "Gun Song," and "Everybody's Got the Right (Finale)" are all capable numbers that resonate within the listener. But, "Another National Anthem" and "Something Just Broke" are the true emotional centers of the recording. The seething anger in "Another National Anthem" is a rollicking boil, expertly highlighting the feelings of being overlooked and forgotten by the powerful elites in control. Conversely, "Something Just Broke" is a masterfully crafted and performed ode to those unforgettable and forever life-changing collective cultural moments that we all seem to be living through with more and more frequency.

Broadway Records' ASSASSINS (The 2022 Off-Broadway Cast Recording) hits the intellectual and emotional highs of this devastating yet deeply satisfying Sondheim score. Other than featuring a different cast of beloved Broadway performers than the previous English language albums, it doesn't really do anything to set itself apart from the previous recordings. But, it doesn't really need to. The joy in the album comes from hearing different talents interpret these roles and sing these wildly complex songs.

You can purchase ASSASSINS (The 2022 Off-Broadway Cast Recording) digitally here. Physical copies will be available on the Broadway Records website and in stores on April 15, 2022

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