UNC’s PlayMakers to close season with Sondheim’s ‘Assassins’

03/24/2014 12:00 AM

02/15/2015 10:44 AM

PlayMakers Repertory Company will conclude its main-stage season with the Tony Award-winning musical “Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim, onstage April 2-20.

“Assassins” tells a panoramic story of our nation’s culture of celebrity and the violent means some will use to obtain it, embodied by America’s four successful and five would-be presidential assassins.The New York Times said, “Nothing quite prepares you for the disturbing brilliance of ‘Assassins.’” The Associated Press praised its “dark, demented humor, as horrifying as it is hilarious.”

Performances will be in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and Sunday, April 6, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays, April 12 and 19, and Sundays, April 6, 13 and 20.

“Assassins” features music and lyrics by Sondheim, described by Frank Rich of The New York Times as “the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in American musical theater.” The book was written by John Weidman, based on an idea by Charles Gilbert Jr.

The director of the PlayMakers production is Mike Donahue, whose credits at PlayMakers include “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,” “The Making of a King: Henry IV & V” and “A Number.” Mark Hartman is music director. His Broadway credits include “Sondheim on Sondheim,” “Avenue Q,” “Miss Saigon” and “1776.” Last season he served as music director for PlayMakers’ hit production of “Cabaret.”

Guest artists include Danny Binstock, Joseph Medeiros and Spencer Moses. Binstock, who plays Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, was in the Broadway production of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Broadway credits for Medeiros, who appears as Guiseppe Zangara, would-be assassin of Franklin D. Roosevelt, include “Wicked,” “West Side Story,” Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Grease” and “Big.” Moses, who plays the Balladeer, appeared in the 2009 Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls.” His television credits include “Nurse Jackie” and “The Electric Company.”

In conjunction with “Assassins,” UNC’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values will host a new event, “Table Talk: Themes in Performances from Sondheim’s ‘Assassins,’” March 20, 7 to 9:30 p.m., at City Kitchen, 201 S. Estes Drive, in Chapel Hill. The event pairs a four-course dinner with stimulating conversation headlined by UNC David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music Tim Carter, with UNC associate professor of art history Cary Levine, associate professor of communications Naeemah Clark of Elon University and PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj. The guided conversation will explore themes from the musical, such as political murder, fame in America, art and violence, interspersed with insights from cast members. Tickets are $75. Pre-registration is required. For information or to register, visit http://humanities.unc.edu/programs/special-event/table-talk/ or call (919) 962-1544.

PlayMakers also hosts “The Vision Series: Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with Donahue accompanied by designers for the play March 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Paul Green Theatre. The event is free and open to the public. Participants share coffee and hors d’oeuvres provided by series sponsor Jujube Restaurant, learn about the vision for the show and get a sneak peek at the sets and costumes in progress. Call PlayMakers’ box office at (919) 962-7529 to RSVP. Counter Culture Coffee is co-producing sponsor for “Assassins.”

Other special events will include:

March 24, 7 p.m.: “In the Wings,” presented by PlayMakers and the Durham County Library. Cast and creative team members discuss the play at the Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., downtown Durham;

April 2-4, 7:30 p.m.: preview performances;

April 5, 7:30 p.m.: opening night performance with complimentary gala party afterward;

April 8, 7:30 p.m.: an all-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description;

April 9 and 13: free post-show discussions with members of the creative team;

April 12, 2 p.m.: open captioned performance;

April 19 (7:30 p.m. only) and 20: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.

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