(Johnny Oleksinski’s article appeared in the New York Post, 3/5; via Pam Green; Photo: The off-Broadway musical “Assassins,” which opened in 1991, was controversial for its choice to make presidential killers its main characters.Martha Swope.)
Stephen Sondheim is not known for his bankable concepts. He’s written Broadway musicals about a cannibal barber (“Sweeney Todd”), an ugly Italian woman whose love goes unrequited (“Passion”) and the story of a broken friendship that’s told backwards (“Merrily We Roll Along”).
But his hardest sell ever was “Assassins,” about about those who have attempted to kill presidents, which opened in 1991. “Hey, pal, feeling blue?” goes the first lyric. “Don’t know what to do? Hey, pal, I mean you. Come here and kill a president!” “Cats,” it is not.
The dark show’s cast of criminals includes John Wilkes Booth, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Lee Harvey Oswald. To give you an idea of what these ne’er-do-wells are serving up, John Hinckley Jr. and Fromme sing a romantic duet to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson called “Unworthy of Your Love.”
“I have had great theatrical experiences, but ‘Assassins’ outweighs them all,” original cast member Patrick Cassidy told The Post. “Getting to originate a Sondheim/[John] Weidman show is every actor’s dream.”
The musical’s reputation has skyrocketed since it first premiered off-Broadway at the tiny Playwrights Horizons to a mixed review from the New York Times’ Frank Rich, and running just 73 performances. “Assassins” later won the Best Revival Tony Award in 2004, and for its 30th anniversary, the original cast is reuniting virtually Monday night at 8 p.m. as part of the free online “Studio Tenn Talks: Conversations With Patrick Cassidy” series.