We take look at what is being said about Polly Findlay’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

(c)Johan Persson

The Guardian: *** “This is a thoroughly accomplished reconceptualisation by director Polly Findlay, with an inspired set design by Lizzie Clachan. It underlines the way in which these oddballs, left-behinds and psychopaths invert the American dream, turning their failures into righteous fury, and getting their 15 minutes of fame through infamy.”

The Stage: ***** “Electrifying revival of Sondheim’s revue about presidential killers is darkly entertaining and deeply scary.”

The Telegraph: **** “Nine of the successful and would-be killers of US presidents are assembled in this time-warping satire, expertly and immersively revived.”

iNews: **** “The triumph of Polly Findlay’s ultra-stylish production, magnificently staged in the sweeping Festival Theatre in Chichester, is to foreground the unsettling links between these troubled historical souls and the razzmatazz, gun-happy culture of today’s American right.”

Sussex Express: “However, the most disturbing thing here is that this whole show ever made it onto the page, let alone the stage. An electric chair appears and someone is duly executed in it. Is Sondheim/the production showing us this because the electric chair is an abomination which shames every single citizen of the United States? No, it’s played for cheap thrills.”

All That Dazzles: **** “One element of Assassins that was completely faultless was in its sensational cast. Peter Forbes leads the action as The Proprietor, bringing the audience back throughout the often unrelated sequences and creating a through narrative that would otherwise make less sense in an expertly assured manner. Danny Mac once again proves what a talent he is with his early turn as John Wilkes Booth – though you do have to wait until the shows climax to see him do anything else substantial in a show that is more about the ensemble than any one performer.”

Broadway World: **** “The singing is of the highest standard throughout, as impressive an ensemble as one could hope to hear. Jo Cichonska leads a 13 piece orchestra which navigates Sondheim’s virtuoso evocation of different periods of American music beautifully, if occasionally just a little too loudly. It is in the fusion of the voices and the instruments that the characters come to life, their death wishes less the acts of madmen and more the acts of those who need help that was not forthcoming. They deserve at least some compassion alongside the condemnation.”

London Theatre1: **** “If it comes across as demented and disturbing, that’s what it’s meant to be, with extensive use of two giant screens used for still and moving images and projections. Highly idiosyncratic, this is probably as good a production of Assassins as it’s possible to achieve.”

West End Best Friend: ***** “Faultlessly performed, this is a sparky, tense and utterly absorbing show. Rich with eloquent debate and set to a typical sublime Sondheim score, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better musical on stage in the UK right now. Truly unmissable.”

Musical Theatre Review: ***** “But the miracle of a set designed by Lizzie Clachan should be an award winner and as the song ‘Everybody’s Got the Right’ says: “No one can be put in jail for their dreams” (oh yeah?). Musical theatre doesn’t get much better than this.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “But what lingers longest through this insightful treatment is the way in which we see how these tales came from the fringes of US society at the time, yet today that fringe has been ushered ever closer to the mainstream. As so starkly depicted by the final image of this Oval Office evoking the January 6th insurrection, it is a chilling reminder of the endpoint of populist politics.”

Theatre South East: **** “I am a huge fan of the late Sondheim’s work, admiring how he challenges you to look at stories or events from different perspectives. This musical delightfully epitomises this.”

Assassins continues to play at the Chichester Festival Theatre until the 24th June.


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