Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

24/07/2010 - 14/08/2010

Production Details


Part vaudeville extravaganza, part exposé and wholly electrifying, Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece ASSASSINS and its amazing score reveal uneasy truths about the American Dream. Winner of 5 Tony Awards, this glitteringly subversive musical holds Auckland Town Hall’s Concert Chamber hostage from July 24.

Hugely resonant in today’s celebrity-obsessed society, this anarchic revue looks at the lives, loves and lunacy of 9 ordinary folk – who could have grown up to be President of the United States, but didn’t. They tried to kill him instead. While their motives range from revolutionary idealism to a dyspeptic tummy, we witness their shared belief in their potential magnificence as they gather in a funhouse shooting gallery outside of time. Distinguished guests include Lee Harvey Oswald, Charlie Manson acolyte Squeaky Fromme and Jodie Foster’s stalker John Hinckley. They want to grab headlines, get the girl, or see their name in lights. They want a clear shot at the big time. In Sondheim’s killer thriller, one man’s American dream can become a nation’s nightmare.

Stephen Sondheim is widely regarded as the world’s most significant living musical theatre composer and lyricist. Celebrating his 80th birthday this year, his work includes such triumphs as West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods. With a score which ranges from folk to ragtime to big Broadway ballads, ASSASSINS pushes the boundaries of the art form. Sondheim has created an utterly idiosyncratic entertainment compounded equally of insight, gallows humour and provocation.

Silo Theatre Artistic Director Shane Bosher is thrilled to follow-up their previous musical successes The Threepenny Opera and Berlinwith this knockout show: “Sondheim’s socially charged revue has grown in relevance since its 1991 premiere. We’ve experienced the horrors of 9/11 and the country is now one of the most socially and politically polarized societies in history. We’ve witnessed the power of the American Presidency to change the course of life both domestically and for the entire international community. But this is no mind-numbing history lesson. It’s one of the most significant, controversial and dazzling musicals ever written. It’s real 5-star musical theatre.”

Silo Theatre is delighted to announce a casting coup for their forthcoming production of ASSASSINS – they’ve managed to convince one of Australia’s most versatile and respected actors – Mitchell Butel – to join their subversive chorus line of lunatics.

Fresh from his success in the Australasian tour of the hit Broadway musical AVENUE Q, where he played the leading roles of Princeton and Rod, Mitchell has squeezed Sondheim’s masterpiece into his busy 2010 schedule – which has also seen him perform his solo show Killing Time at the 2010 Adelaide Cabaret Festival and will see him detonate The Grenade for Sydney Theatre Company later in the year. He’ll lead the cast as John Wilkes Booth, the man accused of assassinating Abraham Lincoln.

Leading theatre director Oliver Driver has spent the last three months pulling together a knockout ensemble, auditioning over 200 people to fill his subversive chorus line. Silo Theatre regulars Cameron Rhodes (Loot), Andrew Grainger (That Face; Le Sud; The Cult) and Roy Snow (The Threepenny Opera) will join newcomers Kyle Chuen, Cameron Douglas, Natalie Medlock, Gareth Williams and Go Girls’ Bronwyn Bradley.

It’s time to sing another national anthem.

…nothing quite prepares you for the disturbing brilliance of ASSASSINS…” – The New York Times 


July 24th – 14th August 2010
Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE
Tickets: $25 – $55 (booking fees apply)
Bookings through THE EDGE: 09 357 3355 or  

Leon Czolgosz: ROY SNOW
Charles Guiteau: ANDREW GRAINGER
Giuseppe Zangara: KYLE CHUEN
Lynette Fromme [Squeaky]: NATALIE MEDLOCK
John Wilkes Booth: MITCHELL BUTEL
Lee Harvey Oswald: GARETH WILLIAMS
all other roles are played by the ensemble
Percussion: CHRIS O’CONNOR
direction: OLIVER DRIVER
set design: JOHN VERRYT
costume design: ELIZABETH WHITING
lighting design           : JEREMY FERN
sound design: SEAN LYNCH
production management: JOSH HYMAN
stage management: JOSH HYMAN;          TERRY SHEPHARD
properties management: PIP SMITH
sound engineering: RATU GORDON
technical operation: SEAN LYNCH
set construction: 2 CONSTRUCT
production assistance: DAN BRETON
graphic design: CONCRETE
production photography: AARON K; ANDREW MALMO


Drop dead and pretty bloody gorgeous

Review by Janet McAllister 26th Jul 2010

Actor/assassin John Wilkes Booth might have killed Abraham Lincoln because he earned bad reviews but – spoiler alert! – our national leaders won’t get shot because of what you’re reading now.

Silo Theatre has once again put on a stylish, dark and enthralling musical – following up 2008’s Threepenny Opera, they put the sass into Assassins. The designers have paid attention to every detail so that the vaudeville atmosphere is all-encompassing even before the show proper begins. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Integrity in sensational staging

Review by Joanna Davies 25th Jul 2010

What drives someone to shoot the President? In the case of Silo’s production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins the question might just as well be, “what doesn’t?”

This slick mélange of carnival, freak-show and history lesson tells stories of frustration, despair and single-minded will as it follows the nine assassins and would-be assassins who plot the murders of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford and Reagan.

The cast and musicians are on stage for the show’s duration – much like a circus tent, everything is there to see. And that’s hugely demanding of the cast. They’re on show (literally) for the entire evening, interacting, warming up and playing as the audience members drift in to take their seats. And that’s the lightest moment of the whole performance.

From the moment the Proprietor opens the show by declaring, “Everybody’s got the right to be happy,” and urges passersby to grab a gun and shoot a president, it’s all on. (On opening night Paul Barrett, one of the musical directors, stepped in to sing the opening number as Cameron Rhodes had major throat issues and needed to save his voice for his other role. If you hadn’t been told, you’d be none the wiser.) 

Then the rollercoaster ride through the United States of America’s history begins. It’s not told in chronological order, although John Wilkes Booth (Mitchell Butel) starts things off, and then serves to drive his fellow assassins to fulfil their dreams. Butel’s Booth is egotistical, commanding and somewhat seductive (a far cry from his recent appearance on the Auckland stage in Avenue Q).

We meet Giuseppe Zangara (Kyle Chuen), the Italian immigrant whose stomach agony drove him to attempt to kill FDR. He failed, killed the Chicago Mayor instead and was electrocuted. Cheun brings a fabulous sense of frustration, pain and defiance to the role.

There’s Leon Czolgosz (Roy Snow), who shot McKinley. He embodies the quiet anarchist whose grasp on the real world becomes more and more tenuous. Was he led astray, or is it a path he chose himself? 

Charles Julius Guiteau (Andrew Grainger) has an optimism that seems in total contrast to the sense of woe associated with those who bear arms against their country. His vigour, as Garfield’s assassin, leads him straight to the hangman’s noose and you’re left wondering what it would have taken for his life to have gone down a different path. 

Samuel Byck (Cameron Rhodes) has an element of Michael Douglas’s character in Falling Down. Through his considered, and sometimes rambling, taped messages to assorted composers of the day, you hear the “it’s not fair!” cry of a disappointed little boy. He’s as angry with himself as he is with his country. And Nixon’s going to pay. (Interestingly his plan to fly a hijacked commercial aeroplane into The White House sounds dreadfully familiar…) 

Natalie Medlock’s Squeaky Fromme and Bronwyn Bradley’s Sara Jane Moore join forces to take out Ford. Fromme is motivated by her love for Charles Manson – she plans to have him as a witness at her trial so the world can marvel at his genius – while Moore’s background as a double-agent of the FBI and San Francisco radical underground is largely overlooked in Assassins. Instead she’s a scatty, almost simple housewife. Or is that her plan? Together they’re a Laurel and Hardy duo, and something about Fromme and Moore has the audience rooting for them.

Cameron Douglas’s John Hinckley, the man whose love for Jodie Foster drove his attempt to kill Reagan, is impassioned, earnest and disarming in his delusion. You’re left wondering why he chose such a drastic way to get the teenage actress’s attention (although it makes a nice change from stalking).

Gareth Williams plays two key roles. He’s the confident Colonel Sanders-suit-wearing Balladeer who, for two thirds of the performance, tells the audience of the assassins’ fates. Once they drive him from the stage (remember the cast waits and watches from the periphery like ghosts of past and future), he returns, unrecognisably, as Lee Harvey Oswald – the key to all the assassins’ immortality.

William’s portrayal of perhaps the most famous assassin in recent history leaves no room for conspiracy theories. He gives a rock-strong, captivating performance as an overlooked, dismissed man whose plans for suicide turn to murder and infamy.

The base cast plays all of the other smaller roles and maintains the sense of spectacle through the use of Elizabeth Whiting’s over-the-top panto-style costumes. They’re the ideal match for John Verryt’s set design of a big-ring-circus-tent that’s seen better days, and Jeremy Fern’s lighting design. With the entire cast on stage all the time, there’s nothing more effective than a spotlight.

The singing (MDs Grant Winterburn with Paul Barrett) and choreography (Sandra Rasmussen) is sensational; the movement highlights the spectacle rather than makes the show a cabaret-style musical. And the cast members’ have the remarkable ability to support when needed and star when necessary.

It’s a musical that could easily become ridiculously over the top. In different hands the script could provide the audience with more answers than questions, but with Oliver Driver’s expert direction it keeps its integrity and leaves the audience with plenty to think about.

So what drives someone to shoot the President? Glory? Honour? Hatred? Outrage? I’ve no idea.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


cameron rhodes September 7th, 2010

Congrats to Mitchell Butel on your Helpmann award for best MT actor in Ave Q!

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