Friday, May 29, 2009

Everybody's got the right to be happy...even Sara Jane Moore

I saw Assassins, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman, on Broadway at Studio 54 on July 13, 2004. It was my third Sondheim show (counting Gypsy and a really bad community production of Passion) and put me well on the road to becoming a Sondheimite. It sounds like a morbid almost disgusting idea, but it was one of the most clever, most entertaining and certainly most thought provoking productions I've ever seen.

The original production of Assassins opened off-Broadway on December 18, 1990 at Playwrights Horizons. The 2004 Broadway production at Studio was technically a revival. It won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Michael Cerveris won the Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Joe Mantello won for Direction, Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer won for Best Lighting Design, and Michael Starobin won for Best Orchestrations.

Assassins looks at the history of presidential assassination. The characters are based on real-life presidential assassins and would-be assassins including the most famous John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln), Lee Harvey Oswald (Kennedy) and John Hinckley (Reagan) to the lesser known Sara Jane Moore (Ford), Leon Czolgosz (McKinley), Samuel Byck (Nixon), Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Ford), Giuseppe Zangara (FDR), and Charles Guiteau (Garfield).

If you've seen or heard Assassins, then you know one of the funniest "characters" is Sara Jane Moore. She was originally played by Debra Monk and on Broadway by Becky Ann Baker. Sara Jane attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in September, 1975. Now, after 34 years, the real Sara Jane Moore has been released from prison and is talking. She was interviewed on the Today Show yesterday morning. Hopefully, she'll stay away from sales, gun, not shoe...and maybe she'll catch a local production in her town, wherever that may be.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for posting that interview.

I love "Assassins", too. When I try to explain it to my mother, etc, they are so appalled by the concept.

Sarah B. Roberts said...

A few years ago, I was at a charity cocktail party where Sondheim was the entertainmnet. He told a story about the time when he was working on Assassins. He was at a dinner party at Jackie Kennedy O's home. She asked him what he was working on. He was horrified to tell her. Fortunately, the woman sitting next to him asked him to pass the salt. Jackie forgot her question and he was saved from telling her that he was working on a musical about the assassin who killed her husband.

Anonymous said...

That's classic.

And enjoy your Tony party, darling! It sounds like it will be FABULOUS! And while you'll be in a penthouse at the Regency, I'll be in a cabin somewhere in northern MI...

Kevin Daly said...

That is a fantastic story. On paper it's quite shocking to think of it as a musical. But if there's anyone who can make such a dark part of our nation's history sing, it's Sondheim.