And it was all going so well.
Revived after a sparkling first season at the Hayes Theatre, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s 1990 musical Assassins had just reached its frenzied physical highpoint when Bobby Fox went down.
Fox, playing the polymath maniac Charles Guiteau, while engaged in an eye-popping LED jump-rope routine, suffered a leg injury that proved a showstopper in every sense.
The show was back on its feet 15 minutes later. Not so Fox, who, we were informed, was on his way to hospital.
It’s just been announced that Ryan Gonzalez, star of the recent Hayes Theatre staging of In the Heights, will step into the role until Fox recovers.
That injury issue aside, Assassins looks and sounds terrific in this widescreen presentation in the Playhouse, with Alicia Clements’ sideshow-inspired design filling the stage with cartoonish shapes and colours. Her costuming – antique and the modern – is first rate.
The production has retained the majority of its Hayes Theatre cast. David Campbell is commanding once again as the vainglorious actor-assassin and guiding spirit John Wilkes Booth. Kate Cole shines even harder this time as the batty Sarah Jane Moore, who in 1975 raised a pistol at President Gerald Ford and shot a cab driver instead.
Hannah Frederickson (“Squeaky” Fromme), Rob McDougall (The Proprietor), Connor Crawford (John Hinckley, Jr), Jason Winston (Leon Czolgosz) and Maxwell Simon (The Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald) deliver strongly. Up to the point of his unexpected exit, Fox was electrifying as Guiteau.
Of the newcomers, Madeleine Jones makes good in the show’s slenderest, straightest role – that of anarchist firebrand Emma Goldman – and Luigi Luciente brings acting fire and a powerful upper vocal range to the role of gunman Guiseppe Zangarra.
Anthony Gooley is ideally cast as the most talkative of the assassins, the angry white guy turned domestic terrorist Samuel Byck, who rails against the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Richard Nixon from the seat of a dodgem car while dressed in a Santa suit. Inspired stuff.
The off-stage band (under Steven Kreamer) sounds very good in this venue, the singing is excellent, and with blunt populist solutions to complex issues abounding worldwide, Assassins remains as topical a musical as you will ever see. Don’t miss it.
Meanwhile, keep ’em crossed for Fox.