June 6, 2011





This Sondheim musical (book by John Weidman) explores a presidential  assassination in America over the decades. The ‘Ray of Light’ production is more compelling and evocative than any Assassins that I’ve ever seen. The singing creates the right authentic atmosphere that excites and energizes the audience. And that’s what you get with talent that is pitch perfect. You’ll meet Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore as they plot to shoot Ford. Hinckley practices shooting Reagan. ‘The Ballad of Booth’ is haunting.  ‘Hail to the Chief’ is sung, as Lincoln arrives. Booth, the shooter, shoots Lincoln. Then Booth is shot – and begs to make sure he will be put down in the history books as he dies.

There were many Assassins who shot presidents in the history of the USA.  Some succeed, like Oswald did, but others missed and were then rounded up and shot. They were all angry men who did not agree about anything. Some just wanted to become famous for shooting someone. And you know what – we are still talking about them, so I guess it worked. They did go down in history.

The Ray of Light production is Opera and politics along with a tinge of religion. I can’t get over how perfect the singing and acting is in this amazing presentation of Sondheim’s show. Please sir – may I come to see the show again?  I have seen Assassins before – but never one as cosmic and cinematic as the show at the Eureka Theatre. This is a serious ‘Jewell’ that should not be missed.

Ray of Light is bound to win many “Critics Awards” for Assassins. It not only lights up the Theater – Hell, it lit up the whole block. It’s truly exciting, magnificent and beautifully staged. The best I’ve seen this year. Hey, here’s my take. This is candy for your brain. You’re gonna want to listen to the music again and again. Sure it’s loaded with hypocrisy and injustice – but it brought Sondheim’s great language to the stage, and it’s something that you will want to listen to again, and again.

THE SUPERBLY TALENTED CAST: Derrick Silva, Michael Scott Wells, Steven Hess, Eliza Leoni, Lisa-Marie Newton, Gregory Sottolano, Danny Cozart, Joel Roster, Alex Rodriguez, Charles Woodson-Parker, Deucalion Martin, Anna Smith, Michael Doppe, Tom Orr and Marisa Cozart. Here’s to the Conductor: David Moschler. He brings marvelous musical richness to the show. Orchestrations by Michael Starobin are lush and lovingly constructed. 

Near the Embarcadero

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced and hosted a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))

Note: A similar review of the above will also be published on beyondchron.org. 

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