I am uncertain what my view of this work is – but on the whole, I have to say that this is an entertaining evening with some talented performers.
Technically there are a number of issues that the production still needs to address. Firstly the sound design needs a lot of refinement. Sondheim in the theatre needs perfect clarity of diction – his lyrics demand close attention. All too often, things are lost because the microphones are not correctly focussed or the balance hasn’t quite been sorted or the band (which plays excellently) is just too loud. The other technical glitch is that too often the sound effects were not timed perfectly – meaning that gunshots (vital in a show about assassination) were missing or in the wrong place.
I would also suggest that the cast are made aware of when they are visible in the wings. On a number of occasions, my eye was taken from the action on stage because a cast member was standing in the wings watching the action – or even dancing along to the music. I know that the OFS isn’t perfect in terms of sightlines – but this is a basic mistake.
I really don’t want you to think that this is a bad production – far from it. There are some excellent performances. Paul Barker is outstanding as the psychopathic Sam Byck – his monologues could easily have dragged – but they were comic and dramatic highlights. Hannah Martin and Alana Piper are gifted with good voices and a keen sense of comic timing – something they share with Jonathan Webb.
The direction was clear and defined the individual characters well without resorting to stereotype. There were moments when the choreography could have been delivered with more conviction – but on the whole, this element worked well. The quality of the music is consistently high with attention to detail both in the orchestral and vocal performances.
I am very glad to have added Assassins to the list of Sondheim shows I've seen. It is a curious piece – as I have said – but well worth investigating. This production certainly serves the work well and should entertain even those who don’t usually like musicals.