20-Day Countdown! The Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime: #16: ASSASSINS, 2004

Sixteen days until the Tony Awards!   We are at #16 on my 20-day Countdown of the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime.

Today we venture into a little musical that could: my all-time favorite musical ever, Assassins.  Sadly, this gem of a musical's original cast didn't perform at the Tonys because she opened up Off-Broadway.  Add to that the fact that she opened up right at the height of Operation Desert Storm and the Persian Gulf War, and well, wartime is not really everyone's favorite time to see a show about killing presidents.  The original cast, including the stellar Patrick Cassidy, Victor Garber, and Terrence Mann, ran for 73 performances, was hailed among Sondheim fans, and ridiculed among conventional reviewers.

But the show is deep.  It prompts us to consider the motivations of assassins and would-be assassins in a way we probably haven't comprehended before, something deeper and more meaningful than just, “They're all batshit insane."  It pulls out parallels to our everyday society, makes victims and heroes out of the common man and audience members alike, and makes for one hell of a revival cast, when, in 2004, Neil Patrick Harris, James Barbour, and Michael Cerveris created one of the most wet-dream-worthy revival casts in Broadway history, finally making it to Broadway, and raking in five Tonys in the process.  Dude, you know it's good when it prompts Sarah Vowell to write Assassination Vacation, wherein she starts out the book attending a performance of Assassins.

But even the revival show was plagued with political war issues.  Originally scheduled to open in 2001, the show was postponed until 2004, due to the sensitive subject matter in the light of September 11, 2001.  And well, wartime is not really everyone's favorite time to see a show about killing presidents.  The show ran for 101 performances and won the coveted Best Musical Revival slot, so without further ado, let me introduce the opening song, one of Stephen Sondheim's greatest and creepiest, with the revival cast of Assassins at the 2004 Tony Awards.

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