Assassins has to go down in history as perhaps the least watched of all Sondheim's musicals. Only around 10,000 people saw it during its Broadway run, and such a small number hardly does justice to what is a true masterpiece.
The story of people who attempt, or manage, to kill a President of the USA is hardly usual subject matter for a musical, Andrew Lloyd-Weber certainly wouldn't have thought of it, but the joy of this production is that not only is such a story made entertaining, it is also made funny. Stand-out examples of this are 'How I Saved Roosevelt', with it's pulicity desperate bystanders, and 'The Ballad of Guiteau'. However, the musical also has it's darker moments, and both of these two songs end in the execution of the assassins with quite gruesome sound effects. Beauty and sentimentality also get a look in, with the soaring centre-pice to the 'Ballad of Booth', and the melodious 'Gun Song'. However, under all of this is a dark, serious core, brought out by the chilling 'National Anthem' and the whole of the final scene.
The chorus, generally stupid Americans, provide a good foil to the stronger, darker assassins, with the baladeer providing an amusig outside view of events. In short, this musical true joy to listen to, and perhaps the only one of its kind that is thought-provoking as well as being entertaining.