I’ve been itching to write this post ever since Saturday night! I had the good fortune to attend Endstation Theatre‘s production of Assassins (if you haven’t read the profile I did on Geoffrey Kershner, Endstation’s Artistic Director, check it out – he was great!) The production was amazing, the Sondheim score is unforgettable, and getting a chance to see the show one week before we celebrate Independence Day was just perfect.
To give you a little bit of background, being an avid history nerd with a fascination with the less-pleasant aspects of our past, I received the soundtrack to the 2004 Broadway Revival for Christmas that same year. I was positively thrilled. While other families were listening to Christmas classics, my family was subjected to a solid 90 minutes of songs detailing the assassinations, both attempted and successful, of Lincoln, Roosevelt, McKinley, Garfield, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. My sister still refers to it as our Christmas of Death.
This has remained one of my favorite shows ever. Its a carnival-esque ride through the stories of men and women who are convinced that there lives will be changed for the better by assassinating an American president. All of the characters, save the Carnival Proprietor and the Balladeer, are true historical figures, perfect for post-performance Google searching. What Stephen Sondheim does so brilliantly with the music is really reveal the kinds of insecurity (and mental instability) that would drive a person to do a truly horrible thing.
For the Secret Service agent who might be reading this (to quote Sarah Vowell…), I have no plans to harm any member of public office – something that is hard to even fathom being flippant about, given the state of affairs in this country. But I did find one of the climatic numbers, Another National Anthem, to be particularly relevant to those of us who are struggling, striving, desperate to grab a hold of the American dream. I’ve embedded the song below but also recommend taking a look at the recent revival cast’s performance at the Tony Awards a few years back as well. It’s chilling stuff.
[P.S. If you like Neil Patrick Harris, Mario Cantone, the King of Mississippi from True Blood, and Jean Weir from Freaks and Geeks, you will love this soundtrack. Download it from Amazon – trust me!]