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ASSASSINS at Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Assassins performed by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Every now and again there comes a musical that non-fans of the genre can love. “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” are two of the most famous but a little known one is the brilliant “Assassins.”

Stephen Sondheim is arguably the biggest and best composer of musicals of all time and it’s fairy common among fans of musicals that “Assassins” is his best work. After viewing it, it’s easy to see why. The Milwaukee Rep theater has put on one of the best performances of a show this reviewer has ever seen.

Assassins tells the tales of Presidential assassins and would-be assassins. Obvious, well-known ones like John Wilkes Booth and John Hinkley to lesser knowns like Sara Jane Moore and Squeeky Fromme are showcased, intertwined and given the spotlight. All set to some of the most addicting songs since “Row Your Boat.”

The Milwaukee Rep took the incredible work of Sondheim and made “Assassins” an absolute must-see. Everyone in the cast showed their determination to the script. No one gave a half-performance or wasn’t quite there. Every single one reveled in the part they played and pulled you in. It’s difficult to pick stand outs because all did such a fantastic job. All of them. Some, like Sarah Litzsinger (Squeeky Fromme), Caroline O’Connor, (Sara Jane Moore) Mark Price, (Charles Guiteau) and Brian Sills (Giuseppe Zangara)
played the humorous aspect up and clearly had so much fun with their respective roles. Others, such as Evan Harrington, (John Hinckley), Steve French, (Leon Czolgosz), and Lee E. Ernst, (Samuel Byck) took a very stern turn with their characters. Their characters were tragic in a different way and they (especially French) gained your sympathy. But the big ones: Adam Monley, (John Wilkes Booth) and Chris Peluso (Balladeer) were the major stars of the show. They really put forth everything and made you laugh and enthralled you.

The other star is the sheer design of the show. They way the stage is set is wonderfully whimsical and clever for such a big issue. From a carnival step-right-up feel through the entire show it makes even the bleakest subjects exciting.

The show is running through October 7th and the Milwaukee Rep and is an absolute must see. Whether you’re a fan of musicals or not, “Assassins” is the kind of show that’ll have you engrossed.

Jo Schmidt