Monthly Archive for: ‘September, 2015’

“Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim, presented by Sonoma Arts Live at Andrews Hall, Sonoma CA

Erik Weiss, Tim Setzer

Erik Weiss, Tim Setzer


Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Members, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Photos by Ray Mabry

A Little Finger Can Change the World

If you can make it to the town of Sonoma this weekend, you should check out the latest remarkable collaboration of Sonoma Arts Live and the Narrow Way Stage Company being presented at Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center. “Assassins” is a musical by Stephen Sondheim that takes a provocative and humorous look at a very grim subject indeed.

Trevor Hoffmann

Trevor Hoffmann

“Assassins” first opened Off-Broadway in 1990 and won five Tony Awards for its 2004 Broadway run. The setting is a macabre county fair’s shooting gallery, with American presidents through the centuries as the targets. One by one, the stories of killers and would-be killers of presidents emerge, some well-known and some who have faded into obscurity. Sondheim’s music and lyrics possess a kind of dark, sardonic beauty. The book by John Weidman suggests a common desire among all the assassins: the dream, sometimes twisted, of making a difference in the world.

Adam Blankenship

Adam Blankenship

Director Trevor Hoffmann (Spamalot, Grease) also played John Wilkes Booth for two performances, the last of which we caught during a recent matinee. He did an incredible job in the role while sharing imaginative directing with Skylar Evans, blending the whole ensemble into a cohesive entity. The storytelling and song couldn’t be better, and pulls you into the background of each notorious character.

Adam Blankenship as the Balladeer is a standout. He possesses masterful showmanship, great warmth and a clear, sure tenor. His performance is worth the price of admission. An engaging Tim Setzer as the carnival barker and proprietor is in excellent voice. There are some hilarious bits with Julia Holsworth as Sara Jane Moore and Nora Summers as Squeaky Fromme. Hint: This is probably the only place in town where you can see a bucket of KFC get shot at onstage. Other members of the excellent ensemble cast include Rick Love, Zane Walters, Sarah Bird Passemar, Brett Mollard, Ryan Whitlock, Erik Weiss and Theo Marvin.

Julia Holsworth, Nora Summers

Julia Holsworth, Nora Summers

At times the music reminds you of a jaunty French cabaret. The small band perched in the upper reaches of the set is superb: JB Duff, Alan Parks, Gordon Lustig, Dave Lindgren and Madaline Duran, helmed by Sherrill Peterson. The utilitarian two-level set by Phoenix Ritchie functions as a carnival show, a gallows, a park and everything in between.

The only slowdown happens during a grimly insane Nixon rant by Matthew Loewenstein as would-be assassin Sam Byck, behind the wheel while dressed as Santa Claus.

This is a compact and energetic show that shines a spotlight on history in a most entertaining way.

When: Now through October 4, 2015

8:00 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $12 to $26

Where: Andrews Hall at Sonoma Community Center

276 East Napa Street

Sonoma, CA 95476

(707) 938-4626

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