Review: ASSASSINS at fortyfivedownstairs

Musicals can be deadly…

By Bradley Storer

‘Everybody’s got the right to their dreams!’ With these deceivingly sunny words we are drawn into the grim world of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, a dark twisted carnival in which the murderers of history exist in a fantastical purgatory.

Assassins

The sinister message of the show is that these are the natural by-product of the American Dream – the malevolent reflections of the frustrated search for happiness, looking for fulfilment in the only way left.

Mark Dickinson as John Wilkes Booth brings a sonorous baritone and combination of Southern and Satanic charm to the role, quietly commanding every scene he enters.  Nadine Garner is pitch perfect as Sarah Jane Moore, one of the two ladies who attempted to kill Gerald Ford, and her scenes with Sonya Suares as Lynette Fromme are a comic delight. The rest of the cast deliver solid, if not outstanding, performances. Nick Simpson-Deeks as the strolling Balladeer unleashes a strong mellifluous tenor in his songs, but lacks the charisma that a character embodying the American Dream, in my opinion, should have – whether this is accidental or a directorial decision to demonstrate the hollowness of this concept is open to debate.  Simpson-Deeks does a far better job as the dual role of Lee Harvey Oswald, which makes it disappointing this character only has the chance to appear in one scene.

Director Tyran Parke is to be commended for his direction of the show, and his vision shines through strongly in the assassins’ individual songs and scenes – but in the big group scenes which bookend the show I felt the staging was static and a little awkward, in particular the scene in which the assassins en masse turn against the Balladeer lacked the menace and danger of mob mentality that I was looking for. I felt this was a problem with the production overall – although Parke and the cast do a fantastic job of humanising the characters and mining the comedic potential of the material, it feels as though ultimately it lacks the edge necessary to make the show truly exciting.

DATES: 10 – 21 April 2013

VENUE: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

TIMES:    Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm, Sunday 5pm, Wednesday matinee 1.30pm

ADMISSION: Gala opening night $49, Full $39, Concession $29, Group 8+ $35, Preview $25

BOOKING: 03 9662 9966, www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

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