Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Marc Kudisch, Michael Cerveris, Denis O'Hare|
Assassins (2004 Broadway Revival Cast)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
"Everybody's got a right/To their dream." So begins Stephen Sondheim's 1991 show Assassins--and in this case, said dreams involve killing an American president. The characters form a veritable rogues' gallery, including Jo... more »
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"Everybody's got a right/To their dream." So begins Stephen Sondheim's 1991 show Assassins--and in this case, said dreams involve killing an American president. The characters form a veritable rogues' gallery, including John Hinckley, Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth of course, but also half-forgotten luminaries such as Leon Czolgosz (who killed McKinley) and "Squeaky" Fromme (who aimed for Gerald Ford with an unloaded gun). While Sondheim's lyrics are trenchant as ever, his music, which ranges from Sousa pomp to clever little waltzes, is technically brilliant but also oddly uninvolving. (Many fans prefer the recording of the 1991 Off-Broadway version, though "Something Just Broke," which was added to the 1992 London production, makes its recorded debut here.) Still, there are several high points. In "Unworthy of Your Love," for instance, Hinckley and Fromme wax poetic about their unrequited love for Jodie Foster and Charles Manson, respectively, in a Burt Bacharach-style ballad that's deliberately (I hope!) sappy. And of course as with most Sondheim shows, the cast of this revival--Michael Cerveris, Mario Cantone, Becky Ann Baker, Marc Kudisch, Denis O'Hare--is very good. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
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Excellent - But Which Recording is Better?
Marcus | Bay Area, CA | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having taught classes on the work of Steven Sondheim, I have long considered Assassins to be my favorite of his works - not his best work, but definitely my favorite. I have had a long and wonderful love affair with the Original Cast Recording of Assassins, and with Victor Garbor and Terrance Mann heading that incredible cast, I was apprehensive when I received my Broadway Cast Recording. In the final analysis, it is easy to say that they both have their strengths and weaknesses, but here they are:
1. The Orchestrations on this new Broadway Cast Recording are definitive. They are rich, full, and flesh out one of my favorite aspects of this work of Sondheims; the music that accompanies each Assassin is written in the style of their background and/or time period.
2. The Cast on this new recording is very good. Niel Patrick Harris, who I saw in Sweeney Todd, rises to new levels of excellence. His clarity of tone, diction, feeling, and comprehension make his recordings superior to those of Patrick Cassidy which I did not expect. For those in the fold, the Ballad of Czolgosz is worth the price of the CD alone.
I found that this Guiteau gives us far less vocal flourish and characterization than did the original; but strangely, this does not weaken the character.
The Fromme here is very good, and is "squeaky" only in name, unlike the original.
The only two characters here who are not either better or just as good as the originals are Booth and Moore. With Booth, I felt that he has a deep, rich, and beautiful voice, but he has decided that his acting should occasionally take place outside of the notes of the score. In The Ballad of Booth, he should have let the music be the source of the drama, not his characterization. With Moore... well, I hate to say this, but she ruins the Gun Song, which is a little out of groove to begin with.
Oh, and Zangara doesn't sell me at the end of "How I Saved Roosevelt"
3. The Songs - Yes, Unworthy of Your Love is great here, and the brass give it that extra something that it needs towards the end. Fromme goes slightly flat at one obvious point, but as a whole, a great recording (ESPECIALLY THE TAG WITH REAGAN). Everybody's Got the Right is just as haunting and beautiful as it has ever been. Another National Anthem and The Ballad of Guiteau are definitive recordings. There are also some magnificent tags and dialogue on this recording.
With the song Something Just Broke, which was added to Assassins later, I have always heard said was "out of place" in Assassins, and I now know why this criticism is common. It is not that the sentiment is out of place - the music is. This sounds just like Passion, not Assassins. (Passion was Sondheim's next show, which he was probably writing when he wrote Something Just Broke). This doesn't make it a bad song - actually, it's amazingly beautiful.
Overall, buy this one, love this one, and then buy the Original Cast Recording. (Or vice versa)
Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins" finally make it to Broadway
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I picked up the original cast album of "Assassins" simply because it was a work by Stephen Sondheim. The next thing I knew I had a student doing the final scene between John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald as a dramatic interpretation at high school speech contests and our speech team was attending productions of "Assassins" in the Twin Cities and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. So when the 2004 Broadway revival cast won several Tony Awards it was nice to see that this strange little example of American musical theater was finally receiving its due on the Great White Way.
The setting is a carnival shooting gallery where the assassins who tried, successfully or not, to claim the lives of American Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan come together. Each in turn gets to tell their story on their own terms, usually through one of Sondheim's brilliant songs that allow each assassin their own voice. Who else but Sondheim, aided and abetted in this instance John Weidman, would have John Hinckley (Alexander Gemignani) and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Mary Catherine Garrison) singing a sweet duet entitled "Unworthy of Your Love" as they bemoan their unworthiness to be loved by Jodie Foster and Charles Manson respectively. The simple melody stands in stark contrast to our knowledge of what these two people went out and did in the name of love.
Part of what makes "Assassins" unsettling is that it really does give each character their own say, from the vitriolic attack upon the memory of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth (Michael Cerveris) in "The Ballad of Booth" and the bitter fury of Giuseppe Zangara (Jeffrey Kuhn) in "How I Saved Roosevelt" to the religious fervor of Charles Guiteau (Denis O'Hare) in "The Ballad of Guiteau" and the cold outrage of Leon Czolgosz (James Barbour) in "The Ballad of Czolgosz." Then there is the off the wall insanity of Samuel Byck (Mario Cantone), who has a rant ("Have It Your Way") instead of a song, followed closely by Sarah Jane Moore (Becky Ann Baker).
Helping the assassins to tell their story are the Proprieter (Marc Kudlisch) and the Balladeer (Neil Patrick Harris), although the later doubles as Lee Harvey Oswald at the end. Of course, the idea of television's Dogie Howser as JFK's assassin is a nice little angle for marketing the show. Other historical figures from David Herold and Emma Goldman to Presidents Garfield and Ford pop up at times, played by the Ensemble, as we look at the reasons given by the men and women that made political assassination a peculiar American blood sport. There are few musicals as provocative as this one. You feel like there should be discussion topics that come with the libretto.
True, it is a bit strange to hear these songs sung by a new cast and in often different ways, but having been exposed to a pair of radically different stagings of "Assassins" I am certainly open to the variations. The booklet that comes with the CD has John Weidman's recollections from June of 2004 on the strange twists of fate by which a show that never made it to Broadway ended up with a Tony Award for Best Musical Revival (although the album title simply notes this is "The Broadway Cast Recording") and short biographies of the nine assassins, along with the tradition synopsis and song lyrics.
Of course you should have both CDs because the original has the entire "November 22, 1963" scene when Booth (played by Victor Garber) and the other assassins show up at the Texas Book Depository to persuade Lee Harvey Oswald to join their ranks. However this new recording has "Something Just Broke," the new song that comes between the Kennedy assassination ("Take a look, Lee") and the finale with the reprise "Everybody's Got the Right." The song is sung by ordinary folks, touching on how people remember where they are and what they were doing when they hear the President has been shot, and serves as a serious counterpart to the Ensemble's other big number, "How I Saved Roosevelt." There is a bit more of the dialogue on this CD, including most of Byck's rant.
Laura | Fostoria, Oh United States | 06/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"People, THIS is a Broadway revival- definitely not a disappointment. The cast is amazing, and though the interpretations of the characters often vary considerably from the original cast's (Denis O'Hare's Guiteau is much more subtle, Micheal Cerveris' Booth is less charming), all the songs are equally enjoyable. I was unimpressed with Becky Ann Baker (Moore), who kind of ruined "Gun Song" for me- she sounded fairly off-pitch. Neil Patrick Harris, as the Balladeer, also doubles in this show as Lee Harvey Oswald, and while his voice took a bit of getting used to (he sometimes comes off as a little too eager), he really shines in "Ballad of Czolgosz", which is a difficult number anyway. The updated orchestrations are really lovely, and the extra dialogue tracks are great for fleshing out characters like Samuel Byck, who got shoddy treatment on original recording. "Something Just Broke", a song added in London and retained for this revival, is typical Sondheim, and while enjoyable I don't think it really fits in with the pacing and feel of the rest of the show. Overall, this revival really kept the integrity of the original show while adding its own flair. Versus the original recording? I say, listen to both, and make your own judgements. Both are amazing."