Sondheim Kills Me

After writing Sunday in the Park With George (about Georges Seurat's famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) and Into the Woods (about fucked-up fairy tale characters), Stephen Sondheim went and wrote a musical about a band of merry idealists: presidential assassins. Featuring nine killers, some on-target and some unsuccessful, the Americana-tinged Assassins is one the best musicals ever to grace the floorboards of this fine country. Luminaries like John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Leon Czolgosz (McKinley's killer) sing some of Sondheim's finest work. The dreamy “Unworthy of Your Love,” for example, features John Hinckley and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme singing an ode to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson, respectively. And the finale has all of the Oval Office-loathers meeting at the infamous Texas School Book Depository, goading Oswald into the history books. But don't get me wrong: This is neither a day at Dolores Park catching the amusing antics of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, nor is it wholly a satire of American politics. (I suspect the Bay Area has enough of that twee and tired fluff to last us well until the next century.) It concerns more than politics: Assassins is about the right to be happy.

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