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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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As an outfit 2nd Company exist to promote the work of Stephen Sondheim and new writers from his school. It could be argued that the much-celebrated octogenarian composer-lyricist doesn't need the help - but it's obvious why musical theatre performers are drawn to his canon.

The company have previously tackled Follies, Company and Just Another Love Story, and Ray Rackham now revives Assassins, Sondheim's 1990 one-act examination of nine attempts on the lives of US Presidents.

Rackman notes that the characters in Assassins have confused the right to pursue happiness with the right to obtaining it, whatever the cost. I'd give him this observation, with the production presenting a rumination on the power of a strongly held ideal, combined with the fixating power of a firearm.

David Esler's scenic design is an understated purgatory, alas the piece's musical staging walks a tightrope line, mixing subtle touches with twee choreography.

Navigation is provided throughout by the appealing vocal tones of Balladeer Johnjo Flynn, later Lee Harvey Oswald, who is excellent amongst a cast of strong vocals. Lapses in accent occasionally detract from John Weidman's book, but the scenes and monologues are played out with conviction none the less.

Brandon Force and Marcia Brown deserve to be singled out for specific praise as gospel-singing Charles Guiteau, "Going to the Lordy", and Manson Family member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme respectively.

Musical director Joe Bunker and his five-strong band do a good job of articulating Sondheim's score, providing firm footing for a vital, simple production.


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