Assassins @ State Theatre Centre
Directed by Roger Hodgman
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman
Starring Brendan Hanson, Finn Alexander, Mackenzie Dunn, Caitlin Beresford-Ord
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Assassins is the one piece that composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim once said that he would not change at all, given the chance. The imagining of the meeting of minds between some of history’s most infamous assassins, or would-be assassins, of American presidents, Assassins is a study of American politics over the years and the influence and effect of the yearning for fame on everyday people. Which leaves Perth audiences to ponder why this is relevant to them in 2018?
Obviously the current American president and the climate he leads does leave one wondering when Assassins could potentially be updated with another addition to the cast in future, but it is otherwise an unusual choice for a company which favours Australian content. Regardless, it remains an impeccable piece, and a rare moment of Perth grown musical theatre featured at our State Theatre Centre.
Immediately noticeable is the incredible set design once again by the Black Swan design team, and their phenomenal lighting design in the utilisation of rolling lights across the set to replicate the traditional usage of a sideshow game in the script – hit the president, win a prize! Roger Hodgman’s direction utilises every aspect of the space, with the touch of a live band onstage lending a touch of authenticity to proceedings.
Finn Alexander’s debut performance with Black Swan in his role as The Baladeer is a standout, outdoing some of the leads who should shine brighter under the spotlight. His voice, stage presence and charisma indubitably left the audience wanting more, and we are eager to see more from this early blooming performer.
Another firm favourite is Black Swan alumni Brendan Hanson as John Wilkes-Booth, with a velvety voice of gold and a dominating presence. After a soft and unimpressive start, he quickly establishes himself as a star of the ensemble.
Mackenzie Dunn’s appearance in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll was a revelation, but sadly her overacting and perhaps a youthful over-exuberance left us short in Assassins. We remain hopeful of her return to natural fluency in future. Regardless, she never fails to light up the stage whenever she enters.
Assassins poses questions about human mortality which remain relevant, but the American experience is so unique it is a difficult transition to West Australian audiences expecting traditional Black Swan content. Regardless, it is supremely delivered, sublimely directed and there are some consummate performances which are not to be missed.
Assassins runs until July 1 at State Theatre Centre
Photos by Philip Gostelow