Where: Theatre HB
When: June 24 to July 10, 7.30pm Tickets at iTicket.co.nz
Reviewed by: Keith Russell
This Tony award-winning musical with words and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim has been through three versions and with a new setting dark in its presentation, it is only fitting that Theatre HB is staging the world premiere.
Original in its concept, bold in its delivery, disturbing in its words and thoroughly controversial, this musical exists in another dimension, to allow the meeting of hopefuls to inspire each other in the pursuit of the 'American Dream', no matter how "twisted" as they attempt and succeed in the assassination of their President.
Opening the show was Peter Berry as the Proprietor, of what is unclear, no matter his colourful presence engineered the tone for Antonio Della Barca as the Balladeer to provide the narration to link the characters together, along with a strong singing voice.
Kelly Reid and Lisa Eagle form an uplifting comic duo with their portrayals of Sara Jane Moore and "Squeaky" Fromme respectively and one has to admire Reid's presence of mind when unable to find her gun, she does an inspired piece of improvisation.
Strong characterisation came from Danic Moore as John Wilkes Booth, his seduction of Lee Harvey Oswald was a show highlight. Oswald was well played by Della Barca, his complexity was there for all to see.
John Graham as Leon Czolgosz was suitably intense with Samuel Draper as the vividly obsessive John Hinckley. Sean Boston brings some moving pathos in his portrayal of Giuseppe Zangara.
Michael Sharp was full of black humour as he portrayed Charles Guiteau especially when he began his deluded boastings.
Simeon Ria as Samuel Byck got the biggest laughs when dressed as 'Santa Claus' he gave an inspired monologue on his murderous plans. A large ensemble including Cheeky the Dog made large contributions with multiple roles, all delivered with suitable intensity.
Director Anthony Collier recognises how musically complex this show is and maintaining a clear vision enlisted the help of Musical Director Linda Gilchrist.
Both have done a great job with pacing and keeping our attention. A decaying shopping centre multi-level set helps create a series of tableaus.
Lighting by Hugh Bristow reflected the mood of dark intensity. If this show has an Achilles Heel it will always be the sound engineering particularly with the singing, as clarity is most important, individually is was strong and well projected, sadly the same cannot be said for the ensemble.
This is not a history lesson, nor an in-depth look into the "why" of murderous intent, but rather a complex look into the dark heart of American society.
The cast and crew have risen to the hard work of presenting this production so it now left to you, the audience to challenge your theatrical enjoyment and to wrap yourself in Sondheim's ambitious work, you will not be disappointed.