BWW Review: Pay Attention to ASSASSINS at Brigit Saint Brigit Theatre Company
Who would ever think of creating a musical based on a carnival shooting gallery filled with the ghosts of presidential assassins? The idea is ridiculous; therefore, this show is ridiculous...ly entertaining!
Brigit Saint Brigit Theatre Company is running their production of ASSASSINS at the First Central Congregational Church in the up-and-coming Blackstone area of Omaha through May 19. Directed by Eric Salonis with music direction by Evelyn Lindgren, you might want to catch this one before it's history.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, ASSASSINS opened Off-Broadway in December 1990 and closed two months later. It reopened in 2004 after being postponed in the wake of 9-11. It won several Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.
The story, based on a book by Charles Gilbert, Jr., opens in a carnival shooting gallery. The proprietor (Lisa Kalantjakos) entices a gathering of social misfits to assassinate a president because, "Everybody's Got the Right." She gives them each a gun to right their wrongs.
The Balladeer (David Ebke) narrates the story through cleverly written song and eventually evolves into an assassin himself.
Each assassin who wrote his or her name in the history books makes an appearance, explaining their reason for killing a president. Those reasons range from the Civil War and destruction of the South, to bad theatre reviews, to Santa not being real. The actor John Wilkes Booth (Eric Grant-Leanna) assassinated President Lincoln; Ambassador wannabe Charles Guiteau (Jack Zerbe) assassinated President Garfield; Polish-American anarchist Leon Czolgosz (Isaac Reilly) assassinated President McKinley; and Marxist and former US Marine sharpshooter Lee Harvey Oswald (David Ebke) assassinated President Kennedy.
The not-so-successful assassins include: Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara (Tony Schneider) who attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt; failed businessman Samuel Byck (Christopher Scott) who tried to hijack a plane and fly it into the White House to kill President Nixon; Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme (Katie Otten) and former FBI agent Sara Jane Moore (D. Laureen Pickle), both with ties to Charles Manson, who attempted to shoot President Ford; and mentally unstable John Hinckley, Jr. (Jackson Cottrell) who fired at President Reagan to prove his love for actress Jodie Foster. Although she isn't specifically included with these presidential assassins, Emma Goldman (Allison Helligso) plotted to kill an influential financier while spreading anarchist propaganda. Czolgosz claimed he had been incited to kill the president after attending a speech by Goldman.
While the focus remains on the assassins, the ensemble rounds out the story. A housewife (Carrie Beth Stickrod) sings "Something Just Broke," a lovely rendition that describes the effects the assassinations had on the people of the country. Evelyn Hill is a bratty, although adorable, son of Sara Jane Moore. Don Harris and Matthew Karasek play several characters completing a solid cast.
High points for me were John Wilkes Booth's gold brocade vest and Sara Jane Moore's green plaid atrocity (Charleen Willoughby, Costume Designer), the clearly enunciated and pleasing voice of Ebke, the passion and outrage of Tony Schneider, and the humor -so much humor!- such as the hilarious Colonel Sanders scene between Pickle and Otten, the comical but sad antics of Zerbe, the fiery monologues delivered by Scott in his filthy Santa suit, and the furious temper tantrum of Hill. It is impossible not to crack up watching the show which really shouldn't be funny given the topic...yet it is funny. Very. Funny.
This production is different from the others I have seen at Brigit Saint Brigit. It is lighter. Or is it? Hidden behind the carnival atmosphere of fun and games is the darkness that sometimes lurks in the minds of our citizens. We all need to be loved. We all need to feel valued. We all want to be heard.
Attention must be paid.
Tickets available at https://www.bsbtheatre.com/multi-make-a-reservation or call the box office at 402-502-4910.
Photos courtesy of Brigit Saint Brigit.