‘Assassins’ proves a gem

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One of Southern California’s leading musical theatre companies, The Gem Theatre, presents its spirited production of the boldly daring musical, "Assassins."

Brilliantly directed by Beth Hansen, with words and music by the great Steven Sondheim and book by John Weidman, there is no pretending that a musical about an exploration of real-life presidential assassins would be a “walk in the park,” and yet, it’s comically dark and emotional impact delivers a sublime patriotic wallop to the gut.

One of Southern California’s leading musical theatre companies, The Gem Theatre, presents its spirited production of the boldly daring musical, "Assassins."

Brilliantly directed by Beth Hansen, with words and music by the great Steven Sondheim and book by John Weidman, there is no pretending that a musical about an exploration of real-life presidential assassins would be a “walk in the park,” and yet, it’s comically dark and emotional impact delivers a sublime patriotic wallop to the gut.

Even though this caustic-themed musical production examines the motivations, impulsions and acts of this assemblage of unbalanced characters throughout history, they are in no way excused for their violent and disturbing acts. Most of the action takes place in a hotel bar where the vaudevillian-style show brings these characters to life. Once the assassins have been introduced and armed by Proprietor (Daniel Berlin), the show continues with the Balladeer’s (Brandon Taylor Jones) prologue about the first presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth (Alex Bodrero).

Next, the spotlight turns to the bloodstained Booth himself. Instead of an expected triumphant response by Booth, he gives his unrequited soliloquy filled with desperation and anguish moments before he is shot to death by a Union soldier.

As the list goes on, lesser known Giuseppe Zangara (Danny Diaz) makes an attempt to assassinate FDR, but instead kills the mayor of Chicago. Zangara gives his woeful speech before he is fried in the electric chair.

And from the power-hungry assassin, Charles Guiteau (Damien Lorton) who shot President John Garfield, to Sara Jane Moore’s attempt to kill Gerald Ford and everyone in-between, the historical chapters live on. This parade of self-serving individuals has managed to bring a nation to its knees over again; however, the show underscores the fact that America will continue to rise up and bounce back from tragedy and heartbreak to reveal a stronger and more resilient nation – at least that’s our hope.

The lyric in “The Gun Song” says it all “… all you have to do is move your little finger and you can change the world…,” and that’s our stinging reality, folks. Along with an audacious theme, Sondheim’s musical score is filled with beautiful ballads, uplifting patriotic music, and great reflective parodies.

Some exceptional numbers are: “Unworthy of Your Love,” sung by John Hinckley (Tad Fujioka) and “Squeaky” Fromme (Gretchen Dawson), “The Ballad of Guiteau” by Guiteau (Lorton and Balladeer (Daniel Berlin), and “Something Just Broke”, by the Americans. As serious as the subject matter may be, there are plenty of funny moments in Assassins, andmost notably by Sara Jane Moore (Adriana Sanchez) as the ‘70s conventional housewife as she accidentally discharges her weapon, or the brilliantly overly-exaggerated characterization of comically delusional Guiteau – magnificently portrayed by Damien Lorton (One More Productions co-founder).

While there are several strong ensemble and solo performances, hands down, Lorton steals the show.

"Assassins"

The Gem Theatre

12852 Main St.

Garden Grove

For tickets, call 714-741-9550.