Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts will usher in a production of the controversial Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical, Assassins, beginning on Saturday, October 15, 2011. The production will run for 16 performances and conclude on November 6, 2011.
Inspired by a piece written by a young playwright, Assassins was first presented Off-Broadway in 1991 and speaks of the American dream from the perspectives of eleven individuals who attempted and (at times) succeeded in killing the President of the United States. Time periods and musical genres cleverly and effectively intertwine, as the musical exposes some of the roughest moments in our history.
It was the intense subject matter paired with unfortunate timing that caused Assassins' Broadway opening to be delayed twice -- first because of the Gulf War and a few years later because of the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, in 2004, Assassins finally opened with a bang at Studio 54 and garnered four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.
For Smithtown Center's Ken Washington, artistic director for the past 15 years and director of this upcoming production, the decision to put on Assassins was a natural choice. In the past, Smithtown has put on other Stephen Sondheim classics such as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and West Side Story.
Needless to say, the staff at Smithtown Center consists of some serious fans of Sondheim, who, it was recently announced, will receive New York City's top arts honor in November with the Handel Medallion.
Despite the emotional see-saw of the plot and the challenge of delivering Sondheim's work in general, Washington is full of pride when it comes to the work ethic of his cast, who have been in rehearsals since the beginning of September. "These are very talented individuals who really embraced the show and really are fans of Assassins. It is a very difficult show. [But] we are having a lot of fun with it!"
The hardworking cast will also be supplemented by a set that integrates video designed by Washington and a "superb" 13-piece orchestra. "We are very proud of level of musicianship we are bringing to the show and every musical we do. Audiences are going to see a top-notch quality production because of it."
Assassins is not only a musical that showcases historical relevance, accuracy, and brilliant lyrics, but it is one that audience members have to remain open minded about. They may just come away feeling surprised by their own feelings toward these villains.
"This show requires the audience to think about what's going on up there. A lot of people walk out with the wrong impression -- that it glamorizes and celebrates people who did these horrible things. We feel it is commenting on the glamorization of celebrity itself and what people have to do to obtain it. From American Idol to seeing themselves in the middle of Times Square. What people need to do to achieve self-importance. How some people go a little too far. A lot too far," Washington explains.
In the end, Assassins is a show that brings comedy, pain, and the search to find personal fulfillment at any cost...even death. Because, as audiences will learn, "everyone has got the right to be happy".
Assassins at Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts will begin on Saturday, October 15 at 8pm. The musical will continue to play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm until November 6. A special senior matinee will take place on October 27 at 2pm, as well as a special Sunday evening performance on October 23 at 7pm. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.smithtownpac.org.
Photo Credit: SmithtownPAC
Left to right: Sandro Scenga as Leon Czolgosz, William Kahn as Charles Guiteau, Evan Teich as John Wilkes Booth