Sunday, November 16, 2014


What is the difference between an assassination and a murder? An assassination is the killing of a political leader.

Now name all the assassins in American history. Most of us would immediately have Oswald, Boothe, and probably one or two more.

Now think about these people and imagine a musical about who they were before they possessed a gun. Would these people be considered mentally ill? Misguided? Educated? Respected? What were they missing that made them believe that killing another person was the solution to their problems?

Steven Sondheim thought this after reading John Weidman's book by the same title. Could he utilize this book and miraculously turn it into a musical? Would people be interested in these murderers as people?

Intrigued by common traits shared by assassins, successful and unsuccessful this show is a lesson in history and humanity.

Sondheim musicals tend to be thought provoking and at times a little humorous which can sometimes be uncomfortable.

With the issue of gun-control and mental illness surrounding the characters, what is fascinating is that each one truly believed that their actions were justified, correcting whatever was wrong with their life and the world. This musical is about the reasons for each of these people becoming an assassin.

This show has no one star, but many performers as the legendary assassins John Wilkes Booth who assassinated Lincoln along with his co-conspirator David Herold, Leon Czolgosz who shot President William McKinley, Samuel Byck who attempted to hijack an airplane which he planned to fly into the White House where Nixon was residing, Giuuseppe Zangara who shot Chicago's mayor, Cermak and barely missed President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles Guiteau who assassinated President Garfield, Sarah Jane Moore and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme who both attempted to kill Gerald Ford, political anarchist Emma Goldman who unsuccessfully shot industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick, John Hinckley Jr. while obsessed with Jodi Foster attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan, and Lee Harvey Oswald who shot John Fitzgerald Kennedy. These assassins were portrayed by David Ebke, Nate Simons, Jesse Black, Zachary Kloppenborg, Joey Galda, Adam Hogston, Sarah Query, Angie Heim, Sara Mattix, Chris Scott, and Dan Whitehouse along with cameos of Artie Bremmer who shot and paralyzed Geoge Wallace by Dave Podendorf and Sirhan Sirhan who killed Robert Kennedy by Keefer Podendorf. Each individual thoroughly became their character learning the personalities, oddities, and the physical resemblances. Added to these characters are a Propreitor portrayed by Steve Ebke and the Balladeer who is the marvelous Roderick Cotton. These ringmasters wonderfully commanded the stage and elaborated the circus rings of each assassin.

What makes Assassins unusual is the interactions that transcend time as these infamous personalities discuss their issues with each other allowing the audience to have a possible insight into the individuals and their actions. So yes, John Wilkes Booth actually does interact with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Also demonstrating immense talent and support is the ensemble of Brooke Fencl, Danielle Smith, Mary Slater, Mark Reid, and Jim Farmer.

The behind-the-scenes crew is outstanding in Assassins. As director Keefer Peterson excelled with Chris Ebke perfectly directing the orchestra of Janet Williams, Kristine Wolfe, Dave Black, Kay Johnson, Machelle Mitchell, and Ben Samson. The orchestra beautifully creates the music and excels in both accompaniment without overpowering the soloist. The lights, sound system, sets, props, costumes all blended artistically with this unusual show.

The show with eighteen scenes lasts almost two hours with no intermission. Due to the content and the length, "Assassins" is an adult performance.

"Assassins" continues at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday at 2 p.m. through November 23rd with ticket costs as $ 20 for adults, $ 16 for seniors, and $ 10 for students.   This is an adult play that could be upsetting for children.  Tickets can be purchased by contacting the box office at 712-323-9955.

This is a show that although few people leave humming the tunes, you will leave thinking more about what we can do to prevent the mistakes in history from ever repeating.

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