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ASSASSINS presented by Falcon Theatre through June 13. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening Saturday performance.
Falcon closes out their season, and celebrates their 25th anniversary, by remounting the blockbuster musical, ASSASSINS. Director Jared D. Doren has assembled a strong cast to bring this Sondheim musical about those who have attempted, some successfully, to kill a President of the United States.
The roster of assassins is visually diverse and all fit their roles very well. Across the board, the individual characterizations are very strong and believable. Brian Berendts brings a great intensity to John Wilkes Booth. Patrick D. Carnes does a great job selling his character’s number, “The Ballad of Guiteau.” As Leon Czolgosz, Michael Dean Conley is spot on with his passionate “bottle speech,” and the scene he shares with Emma Goldman (played by Helen Raymond-Goers) is very well-done and emotionally strong. NKU senior Kyle Taylor impresses as Giuseppe Zangara. Jared Earland handles the role of conflicted Lee Harvey Oswald very well. Mike Dennis does solid work as sloven, Santa-suit clad Samuel Byck. CCM’s Hamilton Moore gives a strong showing as awkward and sullen John Hinckley. Eileen Earnest as “Squeaky” Fromme and Danielle as Sarah Jane Moore make a great comic duo, bringing some nice levity to dark-toned show.
The remaining cast includes Joe Hornbaker as the somewhat creepy Proprietor, there to encourage the killers’ darker natures. As the Balladeer, Andrew Maloney holds a strong stage presence and establishes a good rapport with the audience. Young Joey Olberding handles his multiple stage appearances well and throws a very believable screaming fit with mom, Sarah Jane. Solid ensemble support from Aiden Marie Sims, Raymond-Goers, Mike Fielder, Russ D. McGee and Olberding.
Director Doren excels in getting believable and emotionally-true performances out of his actors. He has created many visually-strong stage pictures with his blocking and the show flowed well throughout. The scene in the book depository had a great intensity to it and was a personal favorite. Performed without an intermission, the pacing worked well. There were times when the heavy subject matter slowed things down a bit. The cast should be conscious about bringing that energy level back up when the story switches to a new scene.
Due to the large cast and the limited backstage space, recorded music tracks are used. Given the carnival theme of the show, I thought the tone of the music worked. The cast, under the music direction of Steve Goers, handles Sondheim’s difficult score well. Here and there, several soloist went flat once or twice, but overall the cast sounded strong.
Behind the scenes, the costume design by Tara Williams, wig design by Lisa Dirkes and dialect consulting by Tyler Allessi contributed much to the look and sound of the characters. The simple set design, also by Doren, worked well and was complimented by the lighting design of Ted J. Weil.
I did have a little trouble hearing Goldman during her scene with Czolgosz. Moore was a little soft at the beginning of his solo “Unworthy of Your Love” and didn’t quit match his volume to Earnest when the number became a duet. I also wondered my Oswald was the only successful assassin not to get the target sound effect and flashing lights.
Overall a strong and engaging production. I expect the remainder of the run to sell out, so reserve your tickets early. It might be time for Falcon to think about adding a Sunday matinee and/or Thursday performance to their runs. 🙂 Congratulations on a job well done.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
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