|Original Off-Broadway Production
Original Broadway Cast Recording
||January 27, 1991
Assassins is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman and was based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. It uses a revue-like style to examine men and women who have attempted to assassinate a U.S. President. The style of the music varies widely, reflecting the different styles of music popular at the times of the events depicted.
Assassins opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on January 27, 1991, and played 73 performances. The cast included Victor Garber, Terrence Mann, Patrick Cassidy, Debra Monk, and Annie Golden. The musical was supposed to have its first Broadway production in 2001, but the show was postponed after the events of September 11, 2001.
Assassins received its Broadway debut on April 22, 2004. The Roundabout Theater Company opened the show on Broadway at Studio 54. After a limited run of 101 performances, it closed on July 18th, 2004. The performance starred Neil Patrick Harris as the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald, along with Marc Kudisch in the revised role of the Proprietor; it also featured Michael Cerveris as John Wilkes Booth, for which he received a Tony Award. The production was noted for a coup de theatre in which the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was projected on the t-shirt of Lee Harvey Oswald.
The 2004 production won five 2004 Tony Awards for which it was nominated (Best Revival of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris), Best Lighting Design (Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher), Best Direction of a Musical (Joe Mantello), and Best Orchestrations (Michael Starobin). In addition, Marc Kudisch was nominated for the Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Drama Desk Award that year.
Note: All characters mentioned from here on in are indicated by bold names.
- John Wilkes Booth, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln
- Leon Czolgosz, assassinated President William McKinley
- Charles J. Guiteau, assassinated President James Garfield
- Giuseppe Zangara, attempted to assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt
- Lee Harvey Oswald, assassinated President John F. Kennedy
- Samuel Byck, attempted to assassinate President Richard Nixon
- Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, attempted to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford
- Sara Jane Moore, also attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford
- John Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan
- The Balladeer, folk singer who tells the story as it happens, until the assassins gang up on him in Another National Anthem
- Emma Goldman, female anarchist leader, whose speech (What does a man do . . .?) inspired Czolgosz to shoot William McKinley
- The Proprietor of a carnival game that proclaims "Shoot the President, Win a Prize"; also acts, ironically, as Attendant for William McKinley (Ballad of Czolgosz) and Announcer (How I Saved Roosevelt and Something Just Broke)
- David Herold, conspirator in the plot to kill Lincoln
- James G. Blaine, Secretary of State during the administration of James Garfield
- President James Garfield, 20th President of the United States
- President Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States
- chorus (bystanders, fairgoers)
On different recordings of the musical, different excerpted scenes and monologues have been recorded. The songs have been the same except for the Original Recording which combined The Gun Song and The Ballad of Czolgosz into one track.
- "Everybody's Got the Right" (The Proprietor & The Assassins)
- "The Ballad of Booth" (The Balladeer, Booth, Herold)
- Scene: "Ladies and Gentlemen, a Toast!" (Guiteau, Zangara, Booth, Hinckley, Czolgosz) (Revival Recording only)
- "How I Saved Roosevelt" (Company & Zangara)
- Scene: "What Does a Man Do?" (Goldman & Czolgosz) (Revival Recording only)
- "Gun Song" (Czolgosz, Booth, Guiteau & Moore)
- "The Ballad of Czolgosz" (The Balladeer & Company)
- "Unworthy of Your Love" (Hinckley & Fromme)
- Scene: "I Am a Terrifying and Imposing Figure!" (Moore, Guiteau, Blaine, Garfield) (Revival Recording only)
- "The Ballad of Guiteau" (Guiteau & The Balladeer)
- Monologue: "Have It Your Way" (Byck) (Revival Recording only)
- "Another National Anthem" (The Assassins, The Balladeer, The Proprietor)
- Scene: "November 22, 1963" (Oswald & The Assassins) (Original Recording only)
- On the Revival Recording this scene is truncated and listed as "Take a Look, Lee"
- "Something Just Broke" (The Company) (Revival Recording only, the song was added during the 1992 London production at the Donmar Warehouse)
- "Finale: Everybody's Got the Right" (The Assassins & Oswald)
- Would-be Nixon assassin Samuel Byck was obsessed with composer Leonard Bernstein. Byck wrote numerous letters to Bernstein, including ones that detailed his plot against Nixon. In Assassins, the Byck character refers to several of Bernstein's musicals, including West Side Story, which was one of Stephen Sondheim's earliest successes.
- Forbidden Broadway parodied the song "Unworthy of Your Love" creating "Unworthy of Your Words", an ode to Stephen Sondheim.