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Assassins (1991 Original Off-Broadway Cast)
Stephen Sondheim, Victor Garber, Patrick Cassidy
Assassins (1991 Original Off-Broadway Cast)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1

Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to make things difficult for himself. After writing his most accessible mature musical, Into the Woods, in 1987, he collaborated with author John Weidman on an extremely disturbing topic: Assas...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Stephen Sondheim, Victor Garber, Patrick Cassidy
Title: Assassins (1991 Original Off-Broadway Cast)
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: RCA Victor Broadway
Original Release Date: 8/13/1991
Release Date: 8/13/1991
Album Type: Cast Recording
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
Style: Musicals
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 090266073726, 090266073740

Synopsis essential recording
Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to make things difficult for himself. After writing his most accessible mature musical, Into the Woods, in 1987, he collaborated with author John Weidman on an extremely disturbing topic: Assassins, which depicts the various people who tried--with or without success--to kill a United States president. The characters, ranging from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley Jr., all express different motivations--love, fame, freedom from tyranny, stomach pain--but are united in their frustration with the idea of the American dream and believe that killing a president is the only way to achieve it. The songs the assassins sing cover a similarly wide range of Americana, including numbers in the style of Stephen Foster and Sousa, and as is common with Sondheim's music, many of the songs could pass for enjoyable casual listening out of context. (Best example: the lovely ballad "Unworthy of Your Love" could have been a hit for the Carpenters, but it's sung by Hinckley to Jodie Foster and by Lynne "Squeaky" Fromme to Charles Manson.) Careful attention, however, reveals a work of penetrating power. In addition to the musical numbers, this original cast recording includes an 11-minute nonmusical scene in which the older assassins confront and goad Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository as JFK's car approaches. Not surprisingly, the original 1991 production of Assassins ran only 73 performances and the show didn't make it to Broadway until 2004. The booklet includes production photos and full lyrics. --David Horiuchi

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CD Reviews

Powerful, original piece of musical theatre
Mark Andrew Lawrence | Toronto | 01/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"How is it that so many people - even Sondheim fans - do not understand this show?It is not a traditional book musical, being more like a revue in structure but that should not upset people.Some seem to think it glorifies (encourages?) assassination attempts. This is nonsense. It does ask audience members to take a critical look at a nation where "any person can grow up to kill the president." Could it be that some people just are not prepared to think about what is really being presented here?Not liking the show, or not understanding it is fine, but why misrepresent what it is? ASSASSINS was NOT a flop on Broadway: THIS production never played on Broadway. It was scheduled for a limited run off-Broadway in December 1990 and January 1991, and all performances were sold out even before the run began. That makes it a hit! A new production finally brough the show to Studio 54 on April 22 and garnered RAVE reviews, even from the same critics who did not like the show in 1991! (It just goes to show waht an unpopular president and an unpopular war can do to people's perceptions!!)In telling the stories of American Presidential assassinations (or attempted assassinations) Sondheim uses many American music forms: ballads to cakewalks to marches to bubblegum pop and each segment has its own unique flavour. The recording is another first rate affair from RCA Victor with excellent program notes, a detailed synopsis, histories of the assassins and a full libretto. For the most part it features only the musical segments but does include the entire final scene: A dramatic showdown between Lee Harvey Oswald and the other assassins. A shame it did not include Sam Byck's two hysterical (in both senses of the word) monologues. Some listeners object to all the dialogue that is included here. It amounts to one track that can easily be skipped. The disc does not include the number "Something Just Broke" because it was not written until the 1992 London production.Of course the best way to appreciate ASSASSINS is to see it live in the theatre, and the current Broadway production will give people a chance to do just that."
What a Wonderul Invention!
John Adams | Fort Lauderdale, Florida United States | 08/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have seen many bizarre concepts for musicals. Some unique. (ie. Witches of Eastwick) Some obvious. (ie. Saturday Night Fever) And Some that are just plain pointless (ie Carrie: the Musical.) But Sondheim with his many talents have displayed to us his knack for the most surreal concepts for musicals ranging from the world of fairy tales, burlesque entertainment, and the true story of a homicidal pair who killed, cooked, and ate their victims. But in Assassins we are given, once again, a new and inventive concept, filled with lyrics and dialogue that's both dark, humorous, melancoly, and disturbingly inciteful. Probably the most powerful scene in the play is the scene enclosed in the CD whereas all the assassins of the past and future egg on Lee Harvey Oswald to turn the gun away from himself and towards the president. Along with an electric and delightful score by Sondheim. Which supplies a variety of contemporary music from each timeframe. And now for the performances. The one that sticks out the most has to be Victor Garber (Titanic, Godspell, Sweeney Todd) as disgruntled southern actor and infamous assassin John Wilkes Booth. and also Terrence Mann (Les Miserables, Cats, Chorus Line) as Czolgosz. But obviously I couldn't mention every single divinely decadent performance. So I'll leave you with the obvious statement that I leave with practically every review I leave. BUY THIS CD. LISTEN TO THIS MUSICAL."
Sheer scabrous brilliance, and so trenchant, still.
John Adams | 12/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is possibly THE unique Stephen Sondheim show (and certainly the most obvious example of SS making music theatre out of content no one else would ever dream of touching), and thank heavens it was captured so brilliantly for posterity. The cliche that Sondheim doesn't write melodies is fairly scotched here -- this score is not only a strong contender for the composer's most sheerly tuneful, but a comprehensive musical tour through virtually every conceivable American popular music style from the 1860's onward. Civil War balladry, barbershop quartets, ragtime, Sousa and Cohan patriotic anthems, Woody Guthrie folk tunes, bubble-gum pop, serial music a la John Cage or Philip Glass, even self-referential quotations, it's all here. The added weight of Michael Starobin's awesome orchestrations only underlines the fact that, merely judged as composition, "Assassins" is a stunning work.The subject matter, as many have stated, is disturbing and courageously un-commercial, and, post Election 2000, eerily relevant. The famous comment reprinted in the preface to the printed libretto (a theatregoer at the original Playwright's Horizons production was asked by her companion, "Who am I supposed to feel for?", to which she replied "Us. You're supposed to feel for US.")is ever more apt. The necessary suspension of disbelief is justified by every turn of Jerome Weidman's ingenious libretto and Sondheim's matchless lyrics, and certainly the Texas Book Depository scene, which is both profound and pathetic, and unforgettably chilling. Still, perhaps the most notable achievement is the rich vein of dark humor which runs throughout, sometimes side by side with the most unsavory of images, and by way of which many of the most potent observations are made.The original cast is in sum and parts perfection, and only the absence of the post-JFK-scene number "Something Just Broke" (added for the London production and since standardized into the playing script and score) mars the definitive stature of this most unique and particularly representative recording. When a cast album can dare halting the musical flow by ending with a fifteen-minute dramatic scene, and still leave one with the insidious opening/closing number running through the mind's eye, that's saying something. "Assassins" is a one-of-a-kind masterwork, and the original cast recording is a one-of-a-kind document of same."