Tag Archives: assassins

Sondheim Day in Philadelphia!

Here in Philadelphia, the Arden Theater Company is presenting Stephen Sondheim with a “Master Storyteller Award,” and as part of the festivities connected with this fete, they’ve arranged for today to be designated “Stephen Sondheim Day” here in Philadelphia.

In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d share a few bits of Assassins memorabilia. A number of the songs from my 1979 musical Assassins, the source of the idea for Sondheim’s musical of the same name, have been posted on Project 194 and you can find them here. On the Assassins page of this site, you’ll find more background information and links.

Stephen Sondheim has been so much a part of the story of my artistic life that it’s hard to know which events to single out! He’s written that “Everybody’s got the right to their dreams,” and my dream has been to make provocative music theater. Steve’s work has been a constant inspiration, a beacon of possibility for over 40 years. I can’t think of another artist whose work has been so important to me – every day is Stephen Sondheim day at my house, and I add my cheers to those being raised at the Arden Theater Company tonight!

Assassins letter

The fateful letter that started it all, 27 years ago.

CG and SS

Steve and I at his home in 1991, on the opening night of the premiere of Assassins at Playwrights Horizons.

I Hear The Call, from Assassins (Day 121)

Jed Harris in I'm A ShowThis song came quite near the end of Assassins, in the build-up of events that led to the attempted assassination. The character singing is called the Rock Singer, modeled on Charles Manson and played with vigor and brio by Jed Harris. The lyric describes a series of omens which indicate that the time for desperate action is at hand.

I was checkin’ out the news on my TV set
When I heard the trumpet blow.
I’ve got a one-shot hotline
To the six-o’clock word of the Lord!
I saw it in the air over Washington Square,
On a neon angel big as a blimp.
It was written in day-glo spray paint
On the side of a BMT train.

You gotta take things into your own hands, it said,
You gotta mobilize the town.
Everything is fucked past fixing,
It’s time to tear the damn thing down!

I was sitting on the toilet when the telephone rang
And the operator said to me,
We’re calling person-to-person,
Are you gonna accept the charge?
I was looking at the paper in a greasy spoon
And it suddenly occurred to me
That the headline in my hands spelled it out in black and white.

You gotta take things into your own hands, it said,
You gotta mobilize the town.
Everything is fucked past fixing,
It’s time to tear the damn thing down!

In the graffiti in my hallway
Are the codes and clues they leave for me.
Their voices are urging me…
The way is clear!
I cannot fail!
I hear the call to kill the king!

[DIALOG. G gets a mysterious phone call.]

Washington’ll rumble
And the Capitol too!
We’re gonna rock the town!
We’re covering the White House
In a blood-red rising tide.
An end to our trouble
Gonna rise from the rubble
And the people gonna hit the streets
And chaos gonna ring like a string on a big guitar!

You gotta take things into your own hands, it said,
You gotta mobilize the town.
Everything is fucked past fixing,
I’m gonna tear the damn thing down!

I stand at the center of the cosmos!
Everything appears to be simple to me!
I have a reason to be!
The way is clear!
I cannot fail!
I hear the call to kill the king!

Why Not Dream? from Assassins (Day 120)

In my musical Assassins, I tried to imagine the moment when my fictional character “G,” down-and-out prospective assassin, was approached by a mysterious stranger with a proposition. The result is a sort of low-down blues in a Tom Waits mode, and Christopher Cooke does a fine job of putting it over.


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Be A Man, from Assassins (Day 119)

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another song from Assassins that addresses the issue of manhood. The poem is by John Schrank, the man who attempted to assassinate Theodore Roosevelt. Schrank didn’t make the team for Sondheim’s Assassins, but he is another member of that bizarre band of would-be murderers, and like Charles Guiteau, he suffered from delusions of grandeur. Also like Guiteau, he turned out to be a poet, and posterity has saved some of his writings.

The singer here is Christopher Cooke, from the 1979 Theater Express production.


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Assassin’s Lullaby, from Assassins (Day 118)

Well, it was fun to visit a kindergarten in Chester County yesterday, but the grim business of Presidential assassination remains unfinished. Today’s clip is called Assassin’s Lullaby, and the singer is Catherine “Casey” Roberts, from the 1979 Theater Express production.

Sleep well, my pet,
You’ll get yours yet.
You’ll make your mommy proud.
You’ll be a hero
Instead of a zero,
You’ll stand out from the crowd.
When you get bigger,
You’ll pull on that trigger,
An act they won’t forget.
Sleep well, my pet.
Don’t fuss, don’t fret,
We’ll see if we can’t make a man of you yet.

It takes a man
To kill a man,
Your mommy knows it’s true.
You need your rest
To do your best.
You’ve got a job to do.
When you get bigger,
You’ll pull on that trigger.
You’ll be a man-sized threat.
Sleep well, my pet.
Don’t fuss, don’t fret,
We’ll see if we can’t make a man of you yet.
We’ll see if we can’t make a man of you yet.

The idea of manhood and manliness figures prominently in the psychology of Assassins, and today’s song is one of several that explores that territory. This particular song is sung by a chanteuse in a dive bar called the Neptune Cafe, where the fictional assassin “G” has been summoned for a mysterious meeting. More on the outcome of that rendezvous tomorrow! In the meantime, if you’ve got the time, check out one of the links to a random post on the right – there’s lots of songs there from the past 117 days just waiting to be discovered!