Murder and Show Tunes!

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Play: Assassins

Rating: 4 Stars

I knew that I was going to have to go this show and I had no idea what my reaction would be. My first inclination would be that I wouldn’t like it. I am not a fan of musicals, especially of the Broadway variety. It just seems so bizarre to me that people can be having a conversation and then just break into some dancing show tune or some maudlin ballad. I find myself, at the beginning of such shows, counting the number of songs that are in the play and then doing a count down to see how much longer I have to endure.

On the other hand, I do like my assassinations. I have read (and enjoyed) books on the Garfield assassination (Destiny of the Republic), the McKinley assassination (The President and the Assassin), the Lincoln assassination (Manhunt), and I am much embarrassed to admit, in my younger days I read several books regarding who really JFK (here’s a hint, a guy named Lee Harvey Oswald). So, this was my subject area.

My disdain for musicals or my love of history? Who would win?

History!

I did enjoy it. Some of the songs were ridiculous and annoying, but they were also entertaining, and at times, provocative.

There were nine assassins profiled. I’m not sure what it says about me that only one was new to me (Guiseppe Zangara, who tried to assassinate president elect Franklin Roosevelt). I knew of the attempt but did not know any details of the assassin.

They got most of the assassin details right (at least as much as you can when profiling nine assassins in a 90 minute musical). There were a couple of exceptions.

They called John Wilkes Booth a pioneer. History geek wanted to jump up and shout, what about Richard Lawrence, the crazed unemployed house painter who fired two pistols at Andrew Jackson (they both misfired, after which, a badass Andrew Jackson repeatedly clubbed the would-be assassin with his cane)? As far as I know, that was the first true presidential assassination attempt.

Or how about John Flammang Schrank, who actually shot Teddy Roosevelt in the chest? Teddy, being another example of badass, continued on and gave a 90 minute speech before going to the hospital. Schrank belongs on the list more than Samuel Byck and his vague plans of hijacking a 747 and flying it into the Nixon White House.

Also, it kind of implied that Sara Jane Moore and Squeaky Fromme were somehow in cahoots and maybe even did their assassination attempt together. Granted, they both tried to assassinate Gerald Ford, but their attempt were seventeen days apart. There was no, as far as I know, connection between them.

OK, history geek will now stand down.

Charles Guiteau, Sara Jane Moore, and Samuel Byck are all portrayed as deranged. Charles Guiteau in particular is cheerfully deluded. Guiteau and Moore play off each other for comedic effect.

Czolgosz and Zangara are the political radicals. They stomp around the stage in a glowering rage.  Oppressed immigrants with no access to the American dream, their acts are purely of a political nature.

I did find it interesting that they’d run this during a presidential election year (not coincidentally). It does bring up interesting questions regarding how, in a democracy, what outlet people have who feel so out of the system that they consider themselves fundamentally disenfranchised. The assassins here are all misfits, failures in life. The assassination attempt is the only thing that kept them from completely dying in obscurity.

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