Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Assassins

Artists Repertory Theatre
May 2, 2006; closes June 4, 2006

Strong-arm Sondheim revued with marksman confidence. On target in its peculiarities (subject, structure, composition, concept), though book's undramatically woven, strangely tied-up. Well-sung music suits dialogue, not humming. Among immense talent: fascinating Randall Stuart, masterful Kirk Mouser, showgirl Sharonlee McLean, psycho Kevin-Michael Moore. Seamless music direction, sound design by Rodolfo Ortega.

36 comments:

qk said...

Absolutely worth seeing! It's very exciting to see so many flawless performances in one show. I felt it was perfectly cast with top-notch performers. Wade McCollum was charming as always, and McLean and Moore deserve mention as well. My complaint is with Stephen Sondheim--I always feel that his lyrics are extremely clever and interesting while his melodies are uninteresting and forgettable. That detail, however, is easy to overlook when everything else in the show is so well done.

Follow Spot said...

I will add that I liked the set a lot, too, but I'm not sure how much was designer's vision or director's concept. But even from the side seats, it was a fun set.

Dan said...

I wish ART would better utilize its website to include more PR details and photos of their shows so I can see more before I decide to go to the show. They really do a disservice to the masses that correspond digitally with frequency by not even posting promotional materials other than names and times of shows (as if to say that information and the fact that it's ART is all we need to be convinced to see the show). I'd like to see more visual appeal that goes beyond the gigantic full-page editorial model photo in their WW ad.

dan said...

worth noting that stephen sondheim did not write the lyrics for assassins. that would be john wiedman. as for the music it's a pastiche of american song form handled as genre play. are you familiar with the idea of a "send up." everything is represented here from "bad" bacharach to schlocky soft rock, mostly with tongue firmly planted in cheek. of all the things sondheim has been accused of i'm not sure "uninteresting and forgettable melodies" is one of them. plus, i'm not sure how that could be the case and yet the show be so well done. in terms of designer vision and director's concept, don't they often work together to achieve a look? not sure of your point.

Anonymous said...

Actually Sondheim deifnitely did write the lyrics, as he has for all his shows since Gypsy.

Nyx said...

Assassins was Charlie Gilbert's brainchild, originally -- if you're curious about the show, he's written an insightful narrative at http://www.chasgilbert.com/articles/assassins.html

Dan R. said...

Oh dear, there's a new Dan posting now.... Hmmm ok from now on I will be Dan R., so the first post here is from me, Dan R., and the other is another great Dan, I'm sure, as all Dan's are pretty Dan good if you ask me!

Anonymous said...

The program credits "Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim" and "book by John Weidman"

Anonymous said...

I liked the show.

However, about an hour afterwards I had two thoughts:

1) Very few good laughs.
2) Could not recall a single melody and only a handful of lyrics ("Everybody has a right to be happy...").

Call me old-fashioned, but in a musical I like at least one beautiful song - even if it's about assassinating a president.

The best thing about this show was the actors (everyone was truly amazing out there), direction, and set design. The set looked so cool.

Kirk Mouser is an amazing addition (or return) to Portland's stages. Wow!

For the theatre professionals out there: Is using amplification in musicals a foregone conclusion nowadays, or is it still a choice made based on venue, material, size etc.?

Great job, ART.

Anonymous said...

They weren't going to use microphones -- it was a very last-minute necessity. Otherwise you'd hear the instruments and see a lot of mouths moving onstage.

Anonymous said...

couldnt turn down the music? is that in the sound designers contract?

Anonymous said...

What did others think of plot development and storyline? Didn't seem like a whole lot there.

Anonymous said...

Live instruments are a little tricky to turn down!

They're still having problems with the balance...

Anonymous said...

Yes, the actors were terrific. But does anyone else think that $45 is a ridiculously high price for a ticket in this venue?

Anonymous said...

Yes. A disturbing trend in the same vein as the $40 tickets to see the Rocky Horror show at Triangle last summer, which come to think of it, also featured Wade McCollum and Kevin Michael Moore. Coincidence or SCANDAL!?

That being said, I LOVED this show. While the script is nothing brilliant, it is a great showcase for talent and they packed this one to the gills with AMAZING performances. Wade & Kevin & ALL of the others are well worth the price of admission, even if the production values and space aren't.

Anonymous said...

After reading reviews on the show done else ware around the country, I have to say I was thrilled to see that Jon Kretzu really did an amazing job with this show. The casting process upset many I understand, but I now understand why. The cast is amazing, we were so thrilled to hear Kirk Mouser was cast, we hope he stays around!! Even the young boy, Thomas Matthews was outstanding. The boy added a nice vision of youth. I agree the sound still needs work, it was very hard to hear the actors, and I was really looking forward to hearing all their voices!!

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to say the entire cast was PERFECT. I can't believe how much some of the “Assassins” resembled the real Assassins. Does anyone know if this show was mostly pre-cast before they started auditioning?

Trish Egan & Harold Phillips said...

I'm looking forward to seeing this show. I just had to throw a comment in, however, that Assasins seems to have generated more comment than many of the shows Followspot has previously reviewed. If this many of us are talking about it, Jon and Stephen Sondheim must have done SOMETHING right, right? Right...

Follow Spot said...

I think it's also interesting to observe that feedback is kind of all over the map ... for some people, it was x, y and z that worked well; for others, it was a, b and c...

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the “something right” must go to Jon, it was not well received in other areas. The playbill said that ART was going to do it back in 2001, but didn't due to timing. I bet Jon has been thinking about this show for years, hence the great outcome!! I also agree the casting is close to perfect!

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with the "uninteresting and forgettable" melodies comment.

Despite the massive name (Sondheim) engraved on the show, the question must be asked - is this music any good? Really?

For me, the insular references to Bernstein and WEST SIDE STORY in the show were painful reminders of what we were NOT getting - namely great music.

I could not help but compare ASSASSINS to the URINETOWN production at Stumptown Stages last fall. I walked out of URINETOWN remembering nearly every song - definitely the tunes and many of the lyrics. I can remember them to this day.

That is because URINETOWN's songs are so tuneful, funny, peculiar and moving - they breathe life and emotion into the characters and story. In short - they are beautiful.

Sure, some of them are a little cheesey, but I would prefer a cheeseball tune you all go home singing in the car together to an intellectual, clever song that is forgotten a minute after it's over.

In ASSASSINS the music felt more like rhythmic background patter - tunes and melodies were few and far between. That's my opinion. But I'm interested to hear what others thought. Did you love this music?

No question that the cast assembled here was one of the strongest in recent memory in Portland. I would love to see them let loose with better songs!

Peanut Duck said...

Sondheim is a stud.

Really all there is to it.

Don't know how forgettable or uninteresting could even be applied to his work.

:)

theresa

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am shocked by the response here on Follow Spot. Great to see this show being done in PORTLAND and to see the reactions to it!! I can't wait to see it tonight, I have heard it’s quite a show, lets see if all the casting uproar was worth it. Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions about how this show was cast? Fair, unfair etc.

Anonymous said...

The blocking on this show was horrific. Much of the action was played to the front ignoring more than half of the audience (who also paid $45 per seat). Plus, this venue was totally a mismatch with the volume of the show. When I saw it, many audience members had fingers in their ears for the louder parts. Despite terrific performers, these other factors detracted from the show. This show, as blocked, would have been better played in a space like the World Trade Center stage.

Anonymous said...

Saw the show last night and I agree, this venue does not do it justice. I sat in the middle, and was almost wishing I would have been on the sides. There were many times I saw nothing but the backs of their heads, but I guess the sides had the same problem. I wish they could do this show again- in a different venue. Same director, cast and crew, because I really feel the show was outstanding to say the least. The venue did not do this talented group justice. GREAT JOB was done by all, over all we really enjoyed it.

David said...

I liked most the clarity of the story-telling in this production. I always knew what one character was trying to get from another and why it was important, points that get lost easily for me, in musicals. If I have a quibble, it's with McCollum's narrator, in which I'd liked to have seen some more color; a bit of sorrow as well as gentle reproof.

Kurt Mouser was particularly strong, for my money. He filled the stage with presence, as well as vocal power, more consistantly than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if they are going to extend this show? I heard they are planning to.

Penelope said...

This is too funny:

http://www.broadwayabridged.com/scripts/assassins.shtml

Anonymous said...

Nothing official has been released about the extension. Should know something next week. but based on ticket sales...

Anonymous said...

...it's a shoe-in? ...it's not likely? Cryptic only works if you give us a little more, like HOW ticket sales are going.

Anonymous said...

I agree... is that a yes or no! I have talked with a lot of people who haven't seen the show yet, but plan to. It would be a shame for ANYONE to miss this one!

The cast is fascinating, I also am amazed, I would like to know how they cast this show. Someone asked if most of the cast was chosen before the auditions started. Is that true? There are a lot of questions on this blog, why won't someone who knows the scoop answer the questions? Doesn't anyone from the show read this site? If you do, help us out and let us know what is going on.

I saw the show last Friday, and would love to see it again. It seems like a show you should see twice.

Anonymous said...

Having been someone who auditioned for this show, I don't feel that it was pre-cast. Many of the folks that are in the show were at the auditions I attended. Perhaps some of the roles were pre-cast, but it is my preception that it was not.

Anonymous said...

I just saw in the paper "extended through June 11".

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of talent in this show....The trumpet and saxophone players are studs!!

Anonymous said...

I finally got to see the show today; I have been waiting for my husband to return to see it with me. I have been reading this blog for weeks while I wait. I was expecting to come out very impressed with the cast, but all I can think of is that little boy right now(I am not sure, but I think it was Thomas M.) I can’t believe others were not moved by him too. This show has been running for several weeks and I can see pure delight still from the cast during his fit. Sharonlee is one of my favorites during this show and I loved to see her look at him. I am sure other things will come up in my mind soon and I will want to write again, but for now WOW that moment was something for me.

Anonymous said...

Responding to anonymous 5/04/2006 05:55:06 PM

Yes, $45 is considerably too much for this venue. ART rather stuck it to theatre goers with their 2005-6 huge increase in ticket prices. Guess they have to pay for the building somehow...