Skip to content

FringeGuru

 
Assassins
Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012
4

4 stars

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (venue website)
Musicals
12-17, 19 Aug, 2:15pm-3:45pm; 20-23 Aug, 1:05pm-2:55pm, 2:15pm-3:45pm; 24-25 Aug, 1:05pm-2:55pm
Reviewed by Anne Stirling

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Princeton University has not brought a show to the Edinburgh Fringe in over 30 years, and if this year's production of Assassins is anything to go by, their absence is a real shame. With fantastic vocal ability and well-crafted characters, Princeton University Players bring Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's political musical to life with flair, in spite of an unforgiving space. The cast of ten deliver awesome harmonies, well-timed comic moments, and poignant reflections on the infamous attempted and successful assassinations of Presidents of the United States.

Brian Lax, who plays the Proprietor, opens the show accompanied by an onstage keyboard. He welcomes us into a fantasy world where barriers of time are broken, and the various perpetrators of the infamous assassination attempts mingle and muse about their morbid motivations. Lax has a charisma which makes you forget the sinister connotations of the opening number, Everybody's Got the Right – which encourages the characters to kill a president for a prize, that their problems will be solved in doing so. He remains on stage throughout the show, amused as he watches the characters unravel in a series of vignettes which make up the show.

The set is simple – obviously hand-constructed, being a low-budget university production – consisting of a simple fairground booth and backdrop of shooting targets roughly painted the political colours of red and blue. The actors use red and blue toy guns as props, and while these do carry on the established colour scheme, I felt they minimised the dramatic impact of the historical events that are retold through this musical. At various points the ensemble point the guns into the audience, and had they resembled genuine guns, this choreography would have been more compelling.

Unfortunately the small stage at TheSpace on North Bridge also restricts movement, which meant the show lacked some dynamism when it came to the musical numbers; and attempts to play with levels means that on occasion an actor is lost to all but the front two rows.

Despite the limitations of set and stage space, the cast are lively and convincing in conveying the stories of their characters. Standout performers are Chris Murphy, whose warm and resonant voice guides us through each episode as the Balladeer, and Casey Kolb, whose portrayal of Charles Guiteau (the assassin who killed James Garfield) is appropriately manic with top-notch signing. When they all sing together, the sound is powerful and beautiful, true to Sondheim's complicated melodies.

The opening show was sold out, deservedly, as this production of Assassins is a strong show. Musical theatre fans should look beyond the simple and notoriously awkward festival venue to the cast who deliver engaging and aurally pleasing performances.

<< Active Virgin   Carnival of Crows >>

FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

Edinburgh 2012 Five Stars

5 stars Comedy
Totally Tom


5 stars Comedy
The Magical Adventures of Pete Heat


5 stars Theatre
Bye Bye World


5 stars Comedy
Barbershopera: The Three Musketeers


5 stars Comedy
Truth


5 stars Theatre
The House of Shadows


5 stars Cabaret
Briefs


5 stars Theatre
Made for Each Other - Free


5 stars Comedy
Tony Law: Nonsense Overdrive


5 stars Comedy
Ivo Graham and Liam Williams


5 stars Comedy
Hannibal Buress: Still Saying Stuff


5 stars Comedy
The Blanks' Big Break


5 stars Theatre
A Clockwork Orange


5 stars Comedy
Richard Wiseman: Psychobabble


5 stars Comedy
Martin Mor: A Man You Donít Meet Everyday


5 stars Theatre
1984


5 stars Comedy
Swedenborg, the Devil and Me


5 stars Theatre
The Trench


5 stars Theatre
Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut


5 stars Theatre
Joyced!


5 stars Theatre
An Evening With Dementia


5 stars Comedy
Scott Agnew: Tales of the Sauna


5 stars Theatre
Comedian Dies in the Middle of Joke


5 stars Comedy
Chris Ramsey: Feeling Lucky


5 stars Comedy
The Horne Section - Live at the Grand!


5 stars Theatre
How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found


5 stars Theatre
The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle


5 stars Theatre
Songs of Lear


5 stars Cabaret
Jonny Woo: Wonder Woo-Man


5 stars Comedy
Josie Long: Romance and Adventure


5 stars Comedy
10 Films With My Dad


5 stars Theatre
4.48 Psychosis


5 stars Theatre
As You Like It


5 stars Theatre
Appointment With The Wicker Man


5 stars Comedy
Jessie Cave: Bookworm


5 stars Comedy
Morgan & West: Lying, Cheating Scoundrels


5 stars Theatre
Hearts on Fire


5 stars Theatre
Rainbow


5 stars Comedy
Chris Dangerfield: Sex Tourist


5 stars Comedy
Chris McCausland: Not Blind Enough


5 stars Theatre
Chatroom


5 stars Comedy
Peacock & Gamble Don't Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway


5 stars Theatre
I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You


5 stars Comedy
John Robertson - The Dark Room - Free


5 stars Kids'
Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger