Classic Stage Company was just two weeks into rehearsals for its highly anticipated off-Broadway production of Assassins when New York’s performance venues shut down on March 12th, 2020. Now, a year later, they’re announcing a star-studded virtual event to benefit the vital Manhattan theater institution.
On April 15th, CSC presents Tell the Story: Celebrating Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins, which will include performances and conversations exploring the legacy of the musical, including a rare conversation with Sondheim and Weidman about the enduring relevance of the work.
Assassins is Sondheim’s hot-button show about the men and women who have successfully or unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate United States presidents. It rarely receives professional productions — the 2004 Broadway iteration had Neil Patrick Harris playing Lee Harvey Oswald and Denis O’Hare as Charles Guiteau (the oddball who killed President Garfield) — since it can spark plenty of controversy. It is a dark musical that explores America’s obsession with fame and includes a hanging, an electrocution, and John Hinckley singing a love song to Jodi Foster while shooting at Ronald Reagan. So last year’s production directed by Tony-winning John Doyle (who last directed Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures at CSC in 2017) was going to be a major event.
The ripple effects of the theater shutdown are innumerable, but with the vaccine rollout taking place around the country and signs of recovery in the air, people are beginning to feel hopeful about a return to enclosed spaces. So this upcoming event — also directed by Doyle — will be another way to build anticipation for the time when live theater finally returns. The livestream will feature cast members of the original 1990-91 off-Broadway company, the 2004 Broadway revival, and the full cast of the upcoming production, which is planned to be the first show CSC will stage when New York theaters reopen later this year.
People must pre-register for the free virtual event (which will be streamed online) to get a chance to witness an impressive lineup of participants, including Tavi Gevinson, Judy Kuhn, Steven Pasquale, Ethan Slater, Will Swenson, Brandon Uranowitz, Annie Golden; a substantial conversation featuring Sondheim and Weidman; and appearances by Becky Ann Baker, Mario Cantone, Michael Cerveris, André De Shields, Raúl Esparza, Victor Garber, Ann Harada, Audra McDonald, Denis O’Hare, Terrence Mann, Debra Monk, George Takei, and Tony Yazbeck. Plus, the event will also include Tony-winning directors Jerry Zaks and Joe Mantello, as well as other appearances by alumni and “friends” of CSC.
For a taste of what to expect, check out a clip of Ethan Slater and the actor-musicians from the CSC Assassins production when they performed “The Ballad of Czogolz” to raise money for the Actor’s Fund last March.