My preview of Encore Theatre’s ‘Assassins’ for We Love Dexter

assassins.pngEven though Matthew Brennan is directing, choreographing and performing in Encore Musical Theatre’s new production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” – which focuses on nine men and women who have tried (sometimes successfully) to kill a U.S. President – he’s having trouble convincing his Aunt Eileen to give the show a chance.

“I recently saw her in Louisville, and she said, ‘What’s next?’ and I said, ‘Assassins,’ and she said, ‘Oh, I’ll sit that one out,’” said Brennan. “ … But (the show’s) not at all a glorification of these people. It does not apologize or make light of what they did, and it’s not un-American in any way. (The show’s) just been misconstrued, … and really, it’s written in such an even-handed way. The show doesn’t vilify these people – they do that to themselves. Yet we still find a way of relating to them.”

“Assassins” first premiered Off-Broadway in 1990; and while the show has since become a favorite of many Sondheim and non-Sondheim fans alike, it initially received a lukewarm critical reception.

“It wasn’t that it was groundbreaking in terms of structure, or the piece itself, but the material is not your usual fare for a musical,” said Brennan. “ … And the more modern assassins have a different significance for the audience. It’s more difficult to see Squeaky Fromme or Lee Harvey Oswald on stage if you lived in that time and remember seeing them. With something like ‘Sweeney Todd,’ we can laugh it off as a penny dreadful Victorian myth or folklore, but this is our American folklore. Yes, it’s pretend, because there’s singing and dancing, but we all also have a more visceral response to it.” READ THE REST HERE

Dexter’s Encore Theatre presents an evening with Sondheim

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 1.45.40 PM.pngWant to spend an intimate evening in iconic musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim’s living room, hearing stories and insights from the man himself?

That might be a tall order, but Encore Theatre aims to come close to giving you this experience by way of “Sondheim by Sondheim,” a show, conceived by James Lapine, that marries performances of several of Sondheim’s songs, spanning his long career, with video clips of the composer discussing his life and work.

“It’s like Sondheim is giving this master class on technique and process,” said director (and Encore Theatre co-founder) Dan Cooney. “ … I didn’t see this on Broadway, but I saw a production in Chicago, in this tiny, small space, … and I thought, ‘Oh, it doesn’t need to be a Broadway revue thing with big costumes and kicks and spins. It can just be a night with the man.”

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