|Stephen Sondheims Assassins at the Eagle Theatre, Hammonton
posted by Ralph Malachowski on Feb 12, 2016 10:30am | comments
Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins will be performed at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, New Jersey, until February 21.
Assassins has as its subject matter various American presidential assassins and would be assassins, which is not the typical story line of your typical musical. But we are talking about Stephen Sondheim, who took an Ingmar Bergman film, Smiles of a Summer Night, turning into A Little Night Music, and then we have Sweeney Todd his musical about a homicidal barber who turns his victims over to his neighbor who bakes the human flesh into meat pies.
Assassins has received several major productions since its Off-Broadway premiere in 1990. The 1990 production closed after 73 performances, while the London premiere in 1992 ran for only 76 performances. A major revival in 2004 in New York with an all-star cast (Neil Patrick Harris, Marc Kudisch, Michael Cerveris, Denis O’Hare, and Mario Cantone, directed by Joe Mantello) closed after 101 performances. Even so, this 2004 production won five Tony Awards. There was a celebrated revival in London’s West End during the 2014-2015 theatre season. The Eagle is to be thanked for presenting this difficult, yet rewarding, musical to New Jersey audiences.
This Assassins has so many wonderful things going for it, to miss it would be a crime. There are so many talented men in the cast the stage nearly ignites into flames fueled by the spontaneous combustion of testosterone. Jeff Coons creates a magnificent character in his John Wilkes Booth, a central character in this musical. Adam Hoyak is both Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald, creating two effective yet totally different characters. As Samuel Byck (would be assassin of Richard Nixon), the excellent David C. Yashin creates tour-de-force monologues that are verbal runaway trains. The handsome, brooding Justin Mazzella creates a sympathetic Leon Czolgosz. For the women, Victoria Healy as Sarah Jane Moore and Samantha Morrone as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme create a parallel universe where their perverse minds nearly make sense. Cindy Chait is a believable Emma Goldman. The rest of the large cast is very fine.
The six-man band is located beneath the stage, which produces a unique sound. Nearly out of sight, it heightens the eerie effect of the work. The only other place I know that has a covered orchestra is Bayreuth. Sightlines are exceptionally good. Production values are totally professional caliber, and the direction by Ted Wioncek III, serves the work flawlessly.
The Eagle Theatre’s next production is Heathers, which will be presented March 18 through April 24, to be followed by Our Town, May 20 through June 26.
The Eagle Theatre is a totally refurbished 100-year-old theatre in downtown Hammonton, a lovely town with a vibrant downtown scene. If you haven’t visited the theatre, schedule a visit sooner than later.
For more information, visit www.theeagletheatre.com or phone 609-704-5012.