BWW Review: ASSASSINS at Baldwinsville Theatre Guild
Sondheim musicals are of course thought provoking, difficult, intricate, and highly demanding, Assassins is no exception. It features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and an impressive book by John Weidman. The musical's stars are history's presidential assassins. Baldwinsville Theatre Guild has naturally taken on this musical with full force showcasing the talents of some of the top community theatre actors in Central New York.
Weidman's book presents all the presidential assassins together as they discuss their yearning to be remembered, accepted, and make an impact on the world. They all want the same thing, to be noticed. These killers have changed the course of history and their monstrous names still live on, some more than others. In this musical the Proprietor, portrayed by the talented Alex Cupelo, encourages these assassins that "Everybody's Got the Right" to be happy so they too should go ahead and kill a President. By doing so they will certainly be noticed. Cupelo delivers a spot-on performance with his spine-chilling character portrayal, line delivery, and vocals. The show unfolds allowing each assassin to have their spotlight moment.
Shannon Tompkins directs the captivating cast and Colin Keating's impressive music direction leads the seven-person orchestra to present this memorable production. Josh Taylor's set design is functional, artistic, and always wows with detail. The set design alone is killer. Brian Rieger's lighting design brings out the creepiness of the musical. While Andrea Calarco's costume design captures each killer assassin.
The majority of the cast eerily transformed themselves into these creepy characters of history. Casey J. Ryan, with his confident vocals and commanding presence, became John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's murderer. His duet alongside Benjamin Sills (The Balladeer) "The Ballad of Booth" with its folksy tune, is a standout and chilling highlight of the production.
Bill Doolittle as Charles Guiteau, the killer of President Garfield, with a crazy twinkle in his eye, portrays the character with comedic charm and crazy cheeriness. His wild and cheery expressions are showstopping. Justin Bird's vocals as Giuseppe Zangara, who failed at killing President Franklin Roosevelt and was sentenced to death by electrocution, effortlessly soared in "How I Saved Roosevelt." Tallon Larham as Leon Czolgosz is chilling as the man that killed President William McKinley. He shows off some outstanding vocal skills.
Nicholas MacLane as John Hinckley Jr., the man with an obsession with actress Jodie Foster and who attempted to assassinate President Reagan, sings a memorable version of "Unworthy of Your Love" with Hali Greenhouse as Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.
Our two female assassins are Hali Greenhouse as Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, and Janie Wainwright as Sara Jane Moore. Moore and "Squeaky" Fromme made a failed attempt at killing President Ford. Their roles brought some of the best comedic moments of the show. Wainwright portrays Moore, a woman who has issues shooting a gun straight, and brings her child Billy (Nathan Carr) to the assassination because she forgot to check the school calendar, with impeccable comedic timing. Wainwright didn't miss beat with her outstanding line delivery, hilarious facial expressions, and natural charm as she portrays the looney character. Hali Greenhouse takes on a different role than what she is often seen in and she pulls it off with flying colors. She portrays the creepy and odd "Squeaky" Fromme with perfection.
Alex Gilbert takes on the role of Samuel Byck and of course delivers very long monologues while wearing a Santa suit and holding a Budweiser. These outline Byck's plan to kill Nixon.
Then there is Benjamin Sills as the Balladeer and the brilliant transformation into the role of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's killer. His energy, charm, and expressions make him the ideal performer for the folksy and spunky numbers as the Balladeer. His confident stage presence, experience, and brilliant acting chops are show stopping. Sills shows off his spot-on vocals in musical number after musical number. However, it is his strong acting skills as Lee Harvey Oswald that bring chills.
Of course, we can't forget the impressive ensemble that moves the story along and shows off their acting chops in numerous roles. The ensemble features Nathan Carr, Brittany O'Reilly, Stephen Shepherd, Cameron Walker, and Ceara Windhausen and they all deliver memorable and standout performances. Their full and powerful vocals are spot on in the big musical numbers such as "Another National Anthem," "Everybody's Got the Right," and many more.
It comes as no surprise that Baldwinsville Theatre Guild pulled off Assassins well considering their spot-on casting under the direction of Shannon Tompkins. The chilling portrayals, the vocals, and comedic charm of these actors is astounding.
Running time: One hour and fifty minutes with no intermission.
Assassins runs through November 2, 2019 at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild located at 64 Oswego Street, Baldwinsville, New York. For tickets and information on upcoming production at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild click here.