Pioneer Players’ Killer Musical: Assassins


UW Communications/Andy McNeill

UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Players hosted their first production of the semester, premiering the musical “Assassins” from March 29 to April 2 in the Center for the Arts Brodbeck Concert Hall. “Assassins” was written by Stephen Sondheim and based on a novel of the same name by John Weidman.

Director Ann Dillon Farrelly noted that her inspiration to have the Pioneer Players perform this musical stemmed from both Stephen Sondheim’s passing in 2021 and the events of the Jan. 6 capitol attack. The show is often regarded as Sondheim’s most controversial musical as it follows the real assassinations and assassination attempts of U.S. presidents told from the point of view of their killers.

“Assassins” follows John Wilkes Booth, Giuseppe Zangara, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sara Jane Moore, Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, John Hinckley, Sam Byck and Lee Harvey Oswald as they all attempt to tackle the seemingly impossible task in front of them: to kill the president of the United States.

The assassins are also simultaneously dealing with the frustration of trying to figure out what it means to be American along with a plethora of additional problems related to their status in America. Farrelly describes one of the themes of the musical as “a deep-seated resentment of but also a desire for the American Dream.”

Farrelly believes it is important to emphasize how propaganda, racism, entitlement, delusions and self aggrandizing all motivate the assassins to act on their murderous inclinations.

Weidman describes the show that his book inspired, stating, “that behind the variety of motives which they articulated for their murderous outbursts, they share a common purpose: a desperate desire to reconcile intolerable feelings of impotence with an inflamed and malignant sense of entitlement.”

Pioneer Players once again hit another performance out of the park with a wonderful cast, production staff and pit orchestra. Their next production will be the “One Act Festival” starting May 4 through 6 at the CFA.