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WAAPA students are staging one of Sondheim's great works – 'Assassins'

Assassins

Journey through the dark side of the American Dream. Assassins, Stephen Sondheim’s bloody take on US history, politics and celebrity culture, comes to the State Theatre Centre this November, starring WAAPA’s 2nd Year Music Theatre students.

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With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, Assassins depicts nine misfit men and women who set out – not always successfully – to assassinate American Presidents.

It might not sound like the stuff musicals are made of, but Assassins is a multiple Tony Award-winning theatrical tour-de-force. The New York Times wrote that: “Nothing quite prepares you for the disturbing brilliance of Assassins.” Sondheim himself said he considered it to be ‘perfect’. Assassins is bold, original, disturbing and alarmingly funny.

From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald and beyond, Assassins combines Sondheim’s signature blend of clever lyrics and amibitious music with John Weidman’s panoramic story of America’s celebrity culture and the violent means some will use to obtain it.

The musical bends the rules of time and space, allowing assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods to meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts.

Melbourne-based director/performer Melanie Hillman returns to her alma mater to direct WAAPA’s 2nd Year Music Theatre students in Assassins. Hillman is perfectly credentialled for the task, being the co-Artistic Director of Watch This, Australia’s only Sondheim repertory company.

The students on stage will be accompanied by an orchestra of WAAPA Music students, under the musical direction of WAAPA’s Head of Music Theatre Craig Dalton. Choreography for the show is by lecturer Jayne Smeulders, former Principal with the WA Ballet.

“At its core, Assassins asks us ‘How far would you go?’ and ‘What’s your breaking point?’ Questions that still resonate with us today,” Hillman said. “Originally this piece takes place in a carnival, but we have re-imagined it, allowing modern Australian audiences to connect with the world of the American assassin through the setting of an immersive game.”

As events in the United States over the past few years confirm, this provocative musical about how far alienated individuals will go to topple political structures remains as frighteningly relevant today as when it was first performed over three decades ago.

Assassins was last performed in Perth in 2018 when Black Swan State Theatre Company staged a production.

Composer Stephen Sondheim passed way in 2021, during his career he wrote many acclaimed works including Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd – the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Company, Follies and A Little Night Music.

Assassins will be performed in the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA from Friday 11 – Thursday 17 November. Tickets are available via artsculturetrust.wa.gov.au

OIP Staff.

Declaration: OUTinPerth co-editor Graeme Watson is also an employee of Edith Cowan University, and was a student at WAAPA many decades ago. 


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