REVIEW: “This vocally superb cast sings the hell out of the score”

A new review from Stage and Cinema highlights the vocal talent of the ensemble of Assassins and applauds Landmark for the “braveness” in realizing the challenges that the show puts forth.

First, gratitude to the show’s director and choreographer Megan O’Toole for taking on the challenge. Kudos to Curtis Heard and his brilliant music direction and orchestra. And a bigger hand to the cast. The Long Beach community certainly has a talented pool of singers, and this vocally superb cast sings the hell out of the score.

– Stage and Cinema

I was especially impressed with Lisa Bode Heard (Housewife, Ensemble) who shines like a beacon in “Something Just Broke,” epitomizing a vocal quality perfectly suited to many Sondheim scores.

– Stage and Cinema

When Charlie Carlos excitedly sang “How I Saved Roosevelt,” capturing with his very well-trained voice the angst and frustration … of the stomach-ailed Zangara

“Unworthy of Your Love,” the demented devotional duet to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson had Mark Waters as John Hinckley and Maddie Levy as “Squeaky” Fromme sounding terrific together — the result was lovely with Levy’s exceptionally strong pop sound (her “Squeaky” characterization was sharp and contemporary instead of spacy and ’70s)

Owen Lovejoy as Leon Czolgosz evoked the sad desperation of the factory laboring immigrant with terrific vocals in “The Gun Song.”

– Stage and Cinema

I applaud Landmark for its braveness in realizing Assassins because it is a challenge both artistically and politically.

– Stage and Cinema

Read the full review online at Stage and Cinema

RECOMMENDED: Assassins featured in Things to Do This Weekend

The Long Beach Post Hi-Lo has recommended Landmark’s production of Assassins as one of its top things to do this weekend in Long Beach.

Landmark Theatre Company brings the Tony-award-winning musical to life with a stellar cast, dynamic set design and a full theater orchestra

– Long Beach Post

Musicals by Stephen Sondheim generally need no introduction, but “Assassins” is a somewhat obscure production overshadowed by other very prominent musicals of his (“Sweeney Todd,” for example), so here’s the gist: Set in an all-American psychedelic-looking carnival house, audiences explore the lives of nine men and women who either killed (or tried to kill) one of the presidents of the United States. It’s a dark comedy that aims to undress a sinister side of the American dream and has, to much success, captivated audiences since its first Broadway production in 2004.

– Long Beach Post

You can read the full “Things to Do This Weekend” feature online here

Review: “Unlikely Setting for ‘Assassins’ Doesn’t Cramp Its Compelling Style”

Another excellent review of Assassins. This time from Greggory Moore at Random Lengths News.

Here are a number of excerpts from the review.

From the first notes of Assassins, it was clear that the small orchestra (coming to us from the basement, we were told pre-show) was on-point from horns to tambourine, and the cast could sing…

– Greggory Moore, Random Lengths News

You need a good cast to pull that off. No problem here. Jay Dysart is strong throughout and a tour de force in the play’s pivotal scene. Phineas Wilder make us unsure whether we should laugh or cry at his manic Charles Guiteau. And Maddie Levy and Emily Morgan as “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore —who unsuccessfully attempted to kill President Gerald Ford barely two weeks apart — have a lovely comedic chemistry.

Levy excels on the vocal front, too, especially on “Unworthy of Your Love”, a clever duet between Fromme and Hinckley (Mark Waters, doing yeoman’s work in one of the less flashy roles). As Leon Czogosz, Owen Lovejoy features prominently in the show’s best consecutive pair of songs. And as the unnamed Balladeer, Bobby Brannon is an obvious standout. Although The Balladeer is not a well-written character — central to the narrative for a while despite having no contextual tie-in, then simply disappearing from the play’s universe — Brannon lights up the stage with their smooth presence and easy vocal command. 

– Greggory Moore, Random Lengths News

Director/choreographer Megan O’Toole has made a stage that ought to be way too small for a show of this scope serve, even if just barely, blocking the proceedings to near perfection. 

– Greggory Moore, Random Lengths News

Now that I’ve discovered Long Beach Landmark Theatre Company, I hope they’ll continue to take on serious work like Assassins, as opposed to tacking toward liter, populist fare. They’re up to the challenge, and we’re all better off when our entertainment is this thoughtful and thought-provoking. 

– Greggory Moore, Random Lengths News

Read the full review online here. And get your tickets to Assassins before they sell out!

REVIEW: “Landmark’s Assassins audaciously toes the line between brilliance and madness.”

An excellent review of Assassins from Chris Daniels at The Show Report.

Here are some excerpts from the review:

In the presentation of “Assassins” that opened this past Friday night at the Long Beach Landmark Theatre, it is the comedy that works best. Director Megan O’Toole has toned down the violent factor substantially with the replacement of the usual “guns” used in the show with items like mallets and juggling balls for bullets. The beginning scenes are portrayed instead with killers toting rubber mallets, centered around a neon-lit, high striker, ring-the-bell hammer game.

Some of the segments of the show are hilarious indeed. Emily Morgan, lighter than air, and a witchy Maddie Levy make a very animated sociopathic Lucy-and-Ethel pair as Sara Jane Moore and Lynette Fromme, would-be killers of Gerald R. Ford. When Moore’s make-shift “gun” fails to discharge, she thinks fast and throws the balls at him instead.

But there is no mistaking the show’s serious intentions and its confidence in pursuing them.

The ensemble cast is vocally exceptional, with especially thrilling contributions from Jay Dysart (“Texas School Book Depository”) as Booth, Owen Lovejoy (“The Ballad of Czolgosz”) as Czolgosz, Corey Shaw (“America”) as Samuel Byck, young Sammy Schwarz (“I Shot My Dog”) as the Boy, and Bobby Brannon (“The Ballad of Booth”) as the Balladeer.

– Chris Daniels, The Show Report

And Director O’Toole has an off-center, love-obsessed Hinckley (Mark Waters) singing a beautiful folk-rock ballad called “Unworthy of Your Love” to a heedless Jodie Foster; and then when it becomes a duet with Ms. Fromme (known as Squeaky) charmingly singing to a Charles Manson, the squirmy, tragic pathos in the air becomes weighty.

Still, when Giuseppe Zangara (Charlie Carlos), in his inchoate crime against Franklin D. Roosevelt, calls himself an “American nothing,” or when the nine assassins sing together about “another national anthem” that applies to the likes of them, you may feel, as I did, the rumblings of our unsettled country in your bones. “Assassins” is the report of that unsettlement, as well as the bang.

– Chris Daniels, The Show Report

Lucas Dysart excels as Lee Harvey Oswald, proving a lynchpin of modern history, the production’s most harrowing and effective final scene.

– Chris Daniels, The Show Report

Read the full review online at The Show Report

Who were The Assassins: Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald

The One Who ‘Sums It All Up’

We’ve reached the end of our series about the assassins of Assassins and our production opens this weekend. All the profiles are online for you to read, and we’ve sprinkled in details relevant to the show throughout each one.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Assassinated President John F. Kennedy

Lee Harvey Oswald was a US Marine, a one-time defector to the Soviet Union, and the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

As a child, Oswald’s troubled relationship with his mother and other family members led him to act out socially and in school. He was evaluated by psychiatrists throughout his childhood who found him to be withdrawn and secretive. As a teenager he became enamored with socialist literature before joining the US Marines. He was court-marshaled twice for insubordination and the misuse of firearms while in the military.

Communists, Intelligence Agencies, Assassins, Oh My!

After leaving the military to care for his ailing mother, Oswald made a shocking move. He travelled to the Soviet Union where he attempted to become a citizen and live in the rival superpower nation. Oswald did not enjoy Soviet life, and soon made a return to America after getting married to a Russian woman.

After his resettlement in the US, Oswald’s life became populated with strange characters and coincidences that have fueled decades of speculation. Did the FBI cultivate him as an asset and encourage his pro-Cuba leafleting activities to entrap communists? Did the CIA assign him a handler to keep tabs on an unstable, one-time defector?

An early photo of Oswald with a rifle

Oswald’s eccentricities and political obsessions continued. During this time, he attempted to assassinate a retired Major General- his unsuccessful attempt only uncovered after he was investigated for Kennedy’s murder.

Killing Kennedy

On November 22nd, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, down onto Dallas’s Dealey Plaza, killing President Kennedy. He had secured a job in the building a month earlier and used the vantage point afforded by the higher floor to scope out his target. He evaded capture by authorities for a little over an hour before he was tracked down and arrested inside of a movie theatre. Encountering a group of reporters after his arrest, he yelled that he was a “patsy”.

JFK rides in a motorcade moments before his assassination

The nation reacted to news of President Kennedy’s death with complete shock. This public and grisly assassination darkened a hopeful time in American life that the young, handsome President had symbolized. Two days after the assassination, Oswald was being walked to an armored van by police, intending to transfer him from city jail to county jail. Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner shot him in anger, killing Oswald and preventing him from ever testifying in court.

Legacy of a Tragedy

Despite the conclusions of the Warren Commission, and investigations by the FBI and Dallas Police, polls still show that most Americans still do not believe the official story of the Kennedy Assassination. Whether their alternate theories contain speculation about US Intelligence, multiple assassins, mobsters or magic bullets, the lack of clarity around Oswald’s motives still confounds.

If you want to get a closer look at Oswald’s desires and demons, and see what was possibly on his mind, come see Assassins at Landmark!

Further Reading

Meet our Oswald – Lucas Dysart

Lucas returns to the stage at Landmark as Lee Harvey Oswald in Landmark’s production of Assassins. Audiences have seen Lucas as a featured ensemble member in Rent and Hunchback of Notre Dame.

In The News: Assassins featured in The Beachcomber

Landmark’s upcoming production of Assassins has been featured in the Beachcomber with special attention given to the “Season of Sondheim” happening in Southern California.

Landmark Theater will extend the focus on Sondheim throughout the LA area this spring by bringing this powerful Sondheim work to Long Beach, opening April 28. Inside the frame of an all-American, yet sinister, carnival, “Assassins” illuminates the stories of several historical figures who attempted (successfully or not) to assassinate American Presidents.

The Beachcomber

Read the Full Article Online at the Beachcomber

Who Were the Assassins: John Wilkes Booth

Who Were the Assassins: John Wilkes Booth
Who Were the Assassins: John Wilkes Booth

“Here’s our pioneer”

We near the conclusion of our series about the assassins of Assassins  as we are putting the finishing touches on our production that opens this Friday!

John Wilkes Booth

Assassinated President Abraham Lincoln

John Wilkes Booth was a secessionist, actor and the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.

Hailing from the famous Booth theatrical family, John, along his brothers Edwin and Junius, followed in the footsteps of their father as popular theater actors through the 1850s and 60s.

John was a sensation on the stage, becoming known for his energetic, hilarious performances and good looks. He was a huge hit with the ladies, receiving fan mail almost constantly.

A Plot To Kidnap Lincoln

Booth held deep pro-slavery convictions even before the Civil War, evidenced by his attendance at the hanging of the abolitionist John Brown. But as the conflict between North and South began in earnest in 1860, Booth made fiery public statements and hardened private sentiments against the Union.

While his star rose in the acting world, he gathered a group of conspirators and hatched a plot to end the war by kidnapping Lincoln. As his family relationships fell apart over his extreme views, he corresponded secretly with Confederate Intelligence.

After news of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Booth became enraged and dispensed with the kidnapping plan. He was now resolved to kill the President.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Booth’s conspiracy was re-engineered. The goal was now to kill the top-ranking members of the Union government- President Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward.

Booth made his move while Lincoln attended a performance at Ford’s Theater, where the actor was a familiar face and free to roam the premises. He snuck into the President’s box during a performance of the play Our American Cousin and shot him in the back of the head with a pistol, soon after jumping down onto the stage where he shouted “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, Latin for “thus always to tyrants”. He made his escape into the night, aided by a compatriot waiting in the stables with a horse.

A Shocked Nation

There is simply no modern equivalent to this gruesome and bloody event, especially given the odd clash of public figures. A young heartthrob actor taking aim at a President would have been just as wild back then as it would be now. Imagine Timothée Chalamet taking aim at the Head of State during a screening of Frozen. That’s how crazy it was.

Thousands upon thousands of mourners filled the streets as Booth attempted to escape into the marshes of the South. Booth’s co-conspirators had failed. Secretary Seward was injured but alive, and the man sent to kill Vice President Johnson had gotten cold feet.

Newspapers of all persuasions decried the senseless violence and cowardice of John Wilkes Booth, though some observed that the oh-so-shocked editorial sentiments of pro-South papers didn’t exactly ring true after so many years of propagandizing and fear-mongering about Lincoln and abolition.

Useless, Useless

Union authorities tracked Booth down at Garrett Farm in Virginia, where he had supposedly lied about his identity in order to stay with a local family. After surrounding him in a barn, he refused to surrender to Union forces, and they set the building ablaze. As the building began to burn, he moved around inside, allowing a Union Soldier to shoot him. He was removed from the burning building, mortally wounded. Dramatic to the end, Booth looked at his hands and muttered “Useless, useless” before he died.

The death of John Wilkes Booth

For Further Research:

Meet our Booth – Jay Dysart

Jay portrays John Wilkes Booth in Landmark’s production of Assassins. Audiences will recognize Jay from some of his previous appearances at Landmark as Andrews in Titanic, Frollo in Hunchback, Professor Bhaer in Little Women, and Orin Scrivello DDS in Little Shop of Horrors.

In the News: ASSASSINS featured in the Press Telegram & Grunion Gazette

Landmark’s production of Assassins has been featured in the Press Telegram and Grunion Gazette with a fantastic preview article. The excellent new Arts & Culture writer Willie Plaschke has added depth and context about this fascinating musical and highlighted many of the most important elements of why Landmark is producing this show in bold fashion at this particular time.

Next weekend, Long Beach Landmark Theatre Company brings this darkly comedic vision to Long Beach audiences in “Assassins,” the musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman.

“Assassins” presents a world in which discontent simmers in the American psyche. Follow nine hauntingly complicated protagonists as they attempt to follow their dreams and make their mark by assassinating American presidents.

– Willie Plaschke, Long Beach Press Telegram & Grunion Gazette

The cast and crew of Landmark’s production of “Assassins” hope to lean heavily into the symbolism of presidential assassinations and what’s beneath the story, as opposed to the physical trappings of guns and gun violence itself.

Ultimately, Landmark Theatre strives to connect.

“We want our audiences to feel that their experience with us from the time they arrive to the time they leave the show has been an experience of a very sacred space,” said O’Toole, Landmark’s artistic director. “This is theater made for, and by, the community that we serve. In our core values, service is fundamental to who we are.”

This remarkable production opens next weekend, April 28, and runs until May 14.

– Willie Plaschke, Long Beach Press Telegram & Grunion Gazette

Read the whole article online here: Enjoy Sondheim’s darkly comedic vision at the Long Beach Landmark Theater Company

Who Were the Assassins: John Hinckley Jr and Samuel Byck

Another round of Would-be Assassins

We conclude our assassin profiles from Assassins with two more characters who didn’t seal the deal, and became well-known for their failures.

Samuel Byck

Attempted to assassinate President Richard Nixon

Samuel Byck was a US Army Veteran who attempted to kill Richard Nixon in 1974. After his discharge from the army, Byck failed in several business ventures and came to believe that the Nixon administration was conspiring against poor people. He sent threatening recording and messages to several figures he considered to be powerful, including Richard Nixon, Jonas Salk, and Leonard Bernstein. Though the Secret Service was aware of his ravings, they considered him to be a harmless eccentric (known for dressing in a Santa Claus suit) and did not intervene.

Byck carrying a picket sign

On February 22, 1974, Byck attempted to hijack a plane at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport. He intended to fly it into the White House to kill President Nixon. The pilots on the plane that he hijacked were able to temporarily distract him and call for help, and authorities quickly halted his attempt. In his desperation, Byck shot the pilots and another airline employee. Two of them died. When his attempt seemed destined to fail, he took his own life.

John Hinckley Jr.

Attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan

John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. In his early life, Hinckley attempted to make a living as a songwriter, though he was unsuccessful. He wrote letters to his parents that contained pleas for money, and lies about a girlfriend that he never had.

After the release of the 1976 film Taxi Driver, Hinckley became obsessed with the actress Jodi Foster, and wrote letters to her professing his love. After stalking her and failing to meet her, he hatched a plan to impress her by assassinating President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan and his team, moments before the attempt on his life

On March 30th, 1981, Hinckley shot at Reagan with a revolver as he left the Washington DC Hilton Hotel. He wounded four people in total, including the President, who was struck in the chest by a bullet that ricocheted off of a car. None of the wounded men died, although Press Secretary James Brady was left partially paralyzed for the rest of his life.

John Hinckley Jr’s booking photo

At his 1982 trial, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity, though he was ruled to be a danger to society. Instead of prison, Hinckley was placed in a psychiatric hospital for decades. In 2022, he was unconditionally released from psychiatric care. He plans to produce an album of songs.

More Resources:

Samuel Byck:

John Hinckley:

Meet our Byck – Corey Shaw

Corey returns to the stage at Landmark as Samuel Byck in Assassins. Corey was last seen at Landmark as a Gargoyle in Hunchback of Notre Dame, and has been an invaluable part of the behind-the-scenes production teams of RentWorking, and Little Shop of Horrors, among many others.

Meet our Hinckley – Mark Waters

Mark will be back on stage at Landmark as John Hinckley Jr in Assassins. Audiences will recognize Mark from his roles as Frederick Fleet in Titanic, St. Aphrodisius in Hunchback of Notre Dame, and various characters cursing onstage in Working: a Musical.

Who Were the Assassins: Giuseppe Zangara

Introducing Giuseppe Zangara
Giuseppe Zangara

FDR’s Would-Be Assassin

Today we highlight another assassin who didn’t get the job done – at least not as he intended.

Giuseppe Zangara

Attempted Assassin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Giuseppe Zangara was a would-be Presidential assassin who attempted to kill Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. An Italian immigrant and veteran of World War I, Zangara was deeply resentful of rich capitalists, and suffered from painful physical ailments that further embittered him.

About two months before FDR’s first inauguration, the soon-to-be President was in Miami, giving a speech in the Bayfront Park area. Zangara, having recently purchased a revolver, was among the crowd. The tortured veteran stood only five feet tall, and worked desperately to see over the heads and hats of the lively crowd. When he got close enough to spy the future President, he pointed his gun over the shoulder of a woman named Lillian Cross, and fired.

Mugshot of Giuseppe Zangara

Zangara’s bullet missed the President-elect entirely, but injured several others, and mortally wounded the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak. Lillian Cross grabbed the would-be assassin’s arm, and soon the crowd was on him, pummeling him furiously. FDR himself prevented the crowd from killing Zangara, urging them to let the justice system decide his fate.

Zangara’s Arrest

Zangara was quickly tried and sentenced to death for killing the Chicago mayor. The Anarchist Assassin insisted that he wasn’t afraid of the chair, and reiterated his hatred for capitalists. He was executed by electric chair on March 20th. In his final statement, he bade goodbye to “Poor people everywhere”.

Front page of the Miami Herald after the attempt. Lillian Cross’s photo is outlined.

Doctors who performed Zangara’s autopsy concluded that the acute pain he experienced throughout his life was due to adhesions on his gallbladder. Throughout his life, Zangara’s intense pain had been misdiagnosed and mistreated as appendicitis.

More Reading:

Meet our Zangara – Charlie Carlos

Charlie Carlos

Charlie portrays Giuseppe Zangara in Landmark’s production of Assassins. Audiences will recognize Charlie most recently from his role in Working, and from past performances as Harold Bride in Titanic, Leaf Coneybear in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and John Brooke in Little Women.