News Story

In reviewing Assassins for The New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote '…let it be stated that Assassins does not celebrate its homicidal subjects. Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Weidman are simply posing a question that arises in many people’s minds when they read accounts of shocking, irrational crimes: ‘Why would someone do that?’'.

It’s a question historians have poured over since the first assassination of an American president by John Wilkes Booth in 1865, and one that Sondheim and Weidman explore through their compelling musical. Suggested ‘motives’ range from the personal to the political, but Assassins arrives at an overarching conclusion: something has gone very wrong with the American Dream.

For audiences who might not be familiar with them, here is a bit of background to the nine assassins - and would be assassins - featured in the show.

John Wilkes Booth, a wealthy and famous actor, assassinated President Lincoln during a play at Ford’s Theater, Washington D.C, 14 April, 1865.

Booth was a supporter of slavery and Confederate sympathiser in the US Civil War, and believed Lincoln was determined to overthrow the Constitution, abolish slavery and destroy his beloved South.

Booth is played by Danny Mac in our production.

Charles Guiteau assassinated President James A. Garfield on 2 July, 1881.

Guiteau falsely believed he had played a major role in Garfield's election victory, for which he should have been rewarded with a consulship. It is likely that a court today would find him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Guiteau is played by Harry Hepple in our production.

Leon F. Czolgosz was a laborer and anarchist who assassinated president William McKinley on September 6, 1901.

While some American anarchists described his action as inevitable, motivated by what they saw as the country's brutal social conditions, others condemned Czolgosz for hindering the movement's goals by damaging its public perception.

Czolgosz is played by Sam Oladeinde in our production.

Giuseppe Zangara was an Italian immigrant and unemployed bricklayer who attempted to assassinate Franklin D. Roosevelt, on February 15, 1933.

A self-described anarchist, he also suffered severe pain in his abdomen, which doctors told him was chronic and incurable.

Zangara is played by Luke Brady in our production.

Lee Harvey Oswald was a U.S. Marine veteran who assassinated John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, on November 22, 1963.

Two days after the assassination Oswald was fatally shot by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby on live television in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters. There is still much uncertainty around the motive for Oswald’s actions, with many conspiracy theories.

Oswald is played by Samuel Thomas in our production.

Samuel Joseph Byck attempted to hijack a plane flying out of Baltimore/Washington International Airport on February 22, 1974, intending to crash into the White House in the hopes of killing President Richard Nixon. He was shot and wounded by another policeman before committing suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Byck was a failed businessman and came to believe that the Nixon administration was conspiring against poor people.

Byck is played by Nick Holder in our production.

Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford on 5 September 1975. She was a member of the Manson family, a cult led by Charles Manson.

During her trial she stated that she wanted to defend the natural world from the industrial forces that were destroying it. Fromme was sentenced to life in prison but released in 2009.

Fromme is played by Carly Mercedes Dyer in our production.

Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford on 22 September 1975, just 17 days after Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme’s attempt on Ford’s life. She was given a life sentence for the attempted assassination and was released from prison on December 31, 2007, after serving 32 years.

At different times she has given different reasons for her assassination attempt.

Moore is played by Amy Booth-Steel in our production.

John Warnock Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan on 30 March 1981. He was obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster; after stalking her he made a plan to impress her by assassinating Reagan.

At his trial he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and remained under psychiatric care for more than three decades.

Hinckley is played by Jack Shalloo in our production.