By Kelci Sylvia
Smoke drifts over steps akin to the Lincoln Memorial. The flags of our forefathers hang over a patriotic blue background. “Times They are a Changin’” by Bob Dylan plays over the speakers in the theater, which sums up the story of Assassins quite nicely. Assassins is essentially a merry-go-round of past events that changed history.
John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Guiteau are just a few people who we meet who changed the world by assassinating a president. The musical puts a personal spin on an inside look at the killers.
While a serious subject, the musical packs a lot of humor as well. Songs like “Have It Your Way” and “Unworthy of Your Love” are much lighter than “The Gun Song” or “The Ballad of Booth.” The guns themselves could be characters in Assassins. Rented from Weapons of Choice, they used to be real guns. They’ve been altered and shoot blanks when necessary during performances. Anytime a shot was close range or could pose a danger to the cast, offstage gunshots were used instead.
Nicholas Paradiso, who played The Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald, said that Assassins was “a show that takes me to another level and helped me grow as an actor.” Colleen Rua, the director of Assassins, previously directed Pilgrims of the Night.
While it was a lot of work with a lot of elements to put together, she was pleased. “We had a really fantastic team that worked really well together, and our student cast and student crew were great. We had a lot of fun.” Citing some differences between the two productions, she said, “Pilgrims was a more intimate kind of show. Assassins was bigger.”
Paradiso praised Rua, saying, “I really like Colleen’s style of directing.” Rua’s favorite part of directing Assassins was working with the cast in rehearsals. “Beyond being so talented, they’re just wonderful people and bring such a positive energy into the room. They all worked so hard and they all grew during this process, so I was pretty proud of them.”
While there is a wide range of characters in Assassins, Rua played Charles Guiteau, who she described as “the one who sings and dances his way up to the scaffold.” He was the author, poet, lawyer, and preacher who killed President James Garfield.
Students will see Colleen Rua at the student-run BAM Festival as well, as an advisor to the students. Outside of Bridgewater State University, she directs for the (ACME) Festival.
The whole cast and crew worked very hard to pull off six performances with lots of flare and color befitting a show about assassins and attempted assassins. Assassins also had a London Theatre Production, an off-Broadway run and a Broadway run, which won it five Tony Awards.
Kelci Sylvia is a Comment staff writer.