May 20th, 2018

Medicine Hat Musical Theatre’s ‘Assassins’ promises a fun ride on a serious subject

By Chris Brown on April 21, 2017.

Submitted Photo From left: Marty Schultz (as The Proprietor), David Townsend (Assassin Charles J. Guiteau), Rob Olson (The Balladeer) and Ryan Holdaway (Assassin Leon Czolgosz) sing "Another National" during rehearsal on Wednesday evening.

Medicine Hat Musical Theatre is shooting for drama and humour with its upcoming production “Assassins.”

The play, a dark, comedy musical that won the Tony Award for best revival in 2004, begins an eight-show run at the playhouse on April 28.

“It’s about men and women who tried to and in some cases did assassinate the president of the United States,” said director Jen Hausauer-Klepatz.

Characters range from the well known historical figures like John Wilkes Booth (assassin of Abraham Lincoln) to Samuel Byck (would-be assassin of Richard Nixon) and brings them together in a “carnival backdrop.”

They sometimes interact with each other and not always about presidents or politics, but about their own life experiences and searches. The assassins are also sometimes seen in their own eras.

“We’re definitely doing some era hopping, and we’re asking a lot of the audience, for them to take a weird journey with us,” Hausauer-Klepatz admits, calling the whole show “an interesting take on some different historical figures.”

On the surface the subject may seem a hard one in which to find humour, but that’s not the case, says the director.

“For sure there’s a level of seriousness which you can’t quite overlook with humour. So there’s definitely dramatic elements but I also don’t think you can have such an oddball group of characters without making it funny,” she said. “At the same time there’s really beautiful music by Stephen Sondheim. He did “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods,” he’s known for really complicated but beautiful music.”

A show about successful and failed assassination attempts on U.S. presidents may seem a little taboo in the current political climate, but Hausauer-Klepatz, who has been thinking about this show for more than 10 years and proposed it to the MHMT board more than a year ago says the show goes much deeper than that.

“They talk about a few things here and there politically but it has so much more to do with their personal journeys,” she said of the assassins in the show. “It’s very rare they talk about the issues between themselves and the president. For some of them it had nothing to do with anything political, like John Hinckley (who attempted to kill Ronald Reagan) and Lynette ‘Squeaky” Fromme (who attempted to kill Gerald Ford). Both of them were obsessed with celebrities.”

Guns also feature heavily in the show, but again Hausauer-Klepatz said the story goes deeper than just the bang-bang aspect and reflects on how many people die in factories to make a gun and how much damage can be inflicted by something so simple.

“On so many levels it’s that much more of an interesting show because there’s so much going on right now that (the show) can make us think about and it can take us away to laugh about it,” Hausauer-Klepatz said. “There’s a couple songs that I hope can pull at heartstrings but it is a fun ride at the same time with incredible, incredible performances.”

“Assassins” runs April 28-29, May 4-6 and 11-13 at 8 p.m. All shows are at the Medicine Hat Musical Theatre Playhouse.

Tickets $30 plus GST, are available by calling 403-502-3477 and at More information is available on the website.

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