Don Smith plays the Proprietor in Town and Gown Players’ production of Assassins. Photo by Matt Hardy.
Assassins Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a singing collection of wannabe and actual assassins, right? How about if one of them is wearing a Santa suit? Director Drew Doss and the cast are setting out to demonstrate the fact that Stephen Sondheim can make beautiful music out of anything with the award-winning musical about the American Dream gone murderously sour. As the New York Times put it when the show was revived on Broadway some 10 years ago, Assassins “is not your average bubbly toe-tapper.” Bah humbug, indeed.
It’s a series of songs and scenes based on real men and women who were dissatisfied with their lives, and who had the urge to right personal wrongs and change the world by killing an American president. The group, from various times and places, meets in a bar, where John Wilkes Booth (Josh Darnell), first among presidential assassins, inspires them all to fight for their perceived rights. The Balladeer (Matt Hardy), who personifies the American dream, tells the stories of the madmen and women (Amy Coenen, Avery Leigh Draut, Andrew Rabanal, Adam Shirley, Jonathan Sparks, Timothy Swaim, Steven Walter, Jase Wingate) and leads the ensemble of “normal” citizens (Katie Chapman, Jeff Chen, Lucy Haskill, Nate Jones, Bekah Lee, Amy Miller, Narke Norton, Murray Weed). The Proprietor (Don Smith) hands out guns in a carnival setting and eggs on the criminals to win the game of American life by dispensing death.
In the 25 years since the play opened off Broadway, the world has seen all too well how one finger on one gun can change the world (“The Gun Song”). The Broadway revival was supposed to open in November 2001 but was cancelled after 9/11. It was poor timing for a show that includes a scene of a guy in a Santa suit who wants to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House to assassinate Nixon. Sure, the singing/dancing crazies in the show are all-American, but we’ve also seen too many vindictive homegrown shooters in the years since the show first premiered. In today’s news, the presidential targets have been replaced by everyday people like the ones making up the chorus of Assassins. Now we know the bloodthirsty killers, singing, “Everybody’s got the right to be happy/ Everybody’s got a right to their dream,” aren’t just incomprehensible relics of the past.
Fortunately, they come with dark humor, thoughtful exploration, Tony Award-winning music, a top-notch director and a cast of Town & Gown Players’ finest. If you would agree with Santa suit-wearing assassin Samuel Byck that “All I want for for Christmas is my constitutional right to publicly petition my government for a redress of grievances,” then this is the perfect way to celebrate the season.
Assassins (by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidnam) is presented by Town & Gown Players at the Athens Community Theatre Friday, Dec. 4, Saturday, Dec. 5 and Thursday, Dec. 10–Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 13. Tickets are $18, $15 for members/seniors/students, $10 on Thursdays for students and members, and available at townandgownplayers.org or 706-206-8696.
Dashing Through the Snow Silly Southern humor and a cast of eccentrics descend on the town of Tinsel, TX and the Snowflake Inn: a frazzled innkeeper, feuding relatives, an imprudent romance between Santa’s elf and Mrs. Claus and “the Fabulous Futrelle Sisters.” It’s a bit of rowdy, lighthearted holiday cheer written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten (the team behind The Hallelujah Girls, which was recently produced by Winder-Barrow Community Theatre).
Encore Productions presents the show at Elbert Theatre on Friday, Dec. 4, Saturday, Dec. 5, Friday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 13. Tickets are $16, $11 in advance or $9 for students, and available at 706-283-1049. Visit elberttheatre.org for more information.
The Nutcracker The famous ballet has been adapted by June Walker Rogers into a stage play with dance scenes, in which Clara’s godfather gives her a toy soldier nutcracker at a Christmas Eve party. The nutcracker comes to life, reveals he’s a prince in disguise under an enchantment by the Mouse King and takes Clara on a night of adventures.
Winder-Barrow Community Theatre presents this timeless classic at the Winder Cultural Arts Center Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12.50, $10 for teachers and students in advance or $13–15 at the door, and available at 770-867-3106. Visit winderbarrowtheatre.org for more information. You can also catch the traditional ballet, featuring the State Ballet Theatre of Russia, at the Classic Center on Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20 at 3 p.m. Visit pac.uga.edu for more information.
Also Coming Up
Festivus The winter trapeze show at Canopy Studio on Tracy Street is Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Visit canopystudio.org or call 706-549-8501 for more information.
The Rocky Horror Show UGA Next Act presents an encore performance of the musical on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the UGA Chapel on North Campus. Tickets are $8 and will be sold at the door. For details, visit facebook.com/uganextact.
Comic Strip Comedy Show “Show Up & Go Up” Open Mic Night is every Monday at 8 p.m. at The Office Lounge. The headliner Monday, Dec. 14 is Anthony Driver. For information, call 706-546-0840 or visit facebook.com/athenscomicstrip.
Pamoja Dance Company This UGA student dance group is presenting their fall showcase, “Dope: A ‘90s Compilation” at the Fine Arts Theatre Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 or $5 for students, and information is available at pamojadanceco.webs.com.
Aurora Theatre Gwinnett County’s professional theater has four Christmas offerings: Christmas Canteen 2015, A Christmas Carol, La Noche De Velas and 12 Dates of Christmas. Most run through Sunday, Dec. 20, but visit auroratheatre.com for more information.