Avon Players Stages Sondheim Saga of American History with ‘Assassins’

Musical theatre legend Stephen Sondheim roots around in the shadow side of the American Dream in this moving, funny masterpiece

Avon Players will aim its spotlights squarely at some of the darker corners of American history as they present Stephen Sondheim’s bold musical examination of the murderous mindset, Assassins, running September 9-24.

From left to right: Kyle Mason (of Rochester Hills) as The Balladeer and Scott Wickson (of Clarkston) as John Wilkes Booth. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford

From left to right: Kyle Mason (of Rochester Hills) as The Balladeer and Scott Wickson (of Clarkston) as John Wilkes Booth. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford

In Assassins, nine figures from history who attempted—some successfully and others not—to kill the President of the United States, occupy a limbo-like carnival ground in which they relive their crimes and engage in historically impossible interactions across time and space. This timeless purgatory is lorded over by the devious Proprietor (played by Ryan Donnellon of Rochester Hills) and commented on by the conscientious Balladeer (played by Kyle Mason of Rochester Hills). Through Sondheim’s signature blend of intelligent lyrics and haunting music and John Weidman’s often darkly comic script, Assassins explores the psychology and motivations of these men and women, which range from twisted political ideology to personal frustration to unadulterated glory-seeking, and dissects our nation’s culture of celebrity. Some of the characters, for instance John Wilkes Booth (played by Scott Wickson of Clarkston) and Lee Harvey Oswald (played by Steve Grady of Romeo), are household names, while others are relegated to the periphery of history. Yet all are driven to harrowing acts in pursuit of their own perverse view of the American Dream.

One character chronicled in the musical, the famously Jodie Foster-obsessed attempted assassin of President Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. (played by Brian Stanczak-Tuscany of Sterling Heights), has recently been in the headlines due to his release from the mental institution in which he was confined after having been found not guilty by reason of insanity. Hinckley is the third of the figures featured in Assassins to be released and presently living outside custody: Sara Jane Moore (played by Amy Lynn Smith of Birmingham) was released from prison in 2007, as was Manson Family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (played by Lori Smith of Shelby Township) in 2009. Both women attempted to assassinate President Ford.

From left to right: Scott Wickson (of Clarkston) as John Wilkes Booth and Steve Grady (of Romeo) as Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

From left to right: Scott Wickson (of Clarkston) as John Wilkes Booth and Steve Grady (of Romeo) as Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

Other historical characters examined include Charles Guiteau (played by Clayton Hargrave of Flint), the pathologically ambitious and delusional assassin of President Garfield; Leon Czologsz (played by Brian Groth of St. Clair Shores), a naïve anarchist who may have been, in part, inspired to kill President McKinley by famed radical Emma Goldman (played by Emily Polet-Monterosso of Shelby Township); Giuseppe Zangara (played by Andy Henry of Ferndale), who viewed his attempt to kill President Franklin Roosevelt as a cure to his physical ailments; and Samuel Byck (played by Kim Monterosso of Shelby Township), who sought to eradicate society’s ills by flying a 747 into the White House to kill President Nixon.

Following its Off-Broadway run in the early 90s, Assassins debuted on Broadway in 2004 at the legendary Studio 54 starring Neil Patrick Harris as the Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald. This production earned five Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical in both contests.

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is a titan of musical theatre who has earned more Tony Awards than any other composer, plus numerous Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other honors. Some highlights from his more than half-century working in musical theatre include Company, A Little Night Music (featuring the song “Send in the Clowns”), Sweeney Todd (adapted into the 2007 film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter), and Into the Woods (adapted into the 2014 film starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Anna Kendrick).

Tickets for all shows are $22 ($20 on Sundays for students and Seniors). Call 248.608.9077 for tickets or order online at www.avonplayers.org. Group rates are available by calling the box office. “Like” Avon Players Theatre on Facebook for special offers on tickets.  Visa and MasterCard are accepted.  All seats are reserved.  Show dates and times follow:

Friday, Sept. 9                    8:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 10             8:00 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 11                 2:00 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 16                  8:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 17              8:00 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 18                2:00 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 23                 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 24            8:00 p.m

About Avon Players
Founded in 1947, Avon Players is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit community theatre located along the winding banks of Stoney Creek in the quaint Historic District of Rochester Hills, only about two miles from the heart of downtown Rochester. Avon Players has been performing shows in its unique A-frame theater since 1965. With ticket prices set at a fraction of those at professional theatre (plus free parking and concessions on a donation basis) a family of four can experience a sensational live theatrical event for about the cost of one ticket at a “downtown” venue. And for regular theatre-goers, an affordable outing can be an even better bargain by taking advantage of Avon Players’ season ticket packages, which yield discounts of up to 21% per ticket. Additionally, season ticket holders enjoy priority seating selection and voting privileges in Avon’s annual “Stoney Awards.” Additional information regarding tickets and productions is available by calling the Avon Players box office at 248.608.9077 or by visiting the website: www.AvonPlayers.org.

Cast and Production Staff by Community:


Amy Lynn Smith (“Sara Jane Moore”)


Scott Wickson (“John Wilkes Booth”)


Clayton Bushmaker (Sound Design)


Andy Henry (“Giuseppe Zangara”)


Clayton Hargrave (“Charles Guiteau”)


Sam Langsdorf (“Billy/Ensemble”)

Rochester Hills

John (JD) Deierlein (Director and Production Designer)

Peggy Deierlein (Producer/Properties Design)

Ryan Donnellon (“Proprietor/Ensemble”)

Brad Holoday (Hair and Make-Up Design/Set Design)

Louise Holoday (Hair and Make-Up Design)

Kyle Mason (“Balladeer”)


Steve Grady (“Lee Harvey Oswald”)

Royal Oak

Ryan S. Moore (Associate Director)

Shelby Township

Jeff Bednar (“Ensemble”)

Kim Monterosso (“Samuel Byck”)

Emily Polet-Monterosso (“Emma Goldman/Ensemble”)

Kaden Selvidge (“Billy/Ensemble”)

Lori Smith (“Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme”)

St. Clair Shores

Brian Groth (“Leon Czolgosz”)

Sterling Heights

Brian Stanczak-Tuscany (“John Hinckley”)


Kirsten Renas (“Housewife/Ensemble”)

West Bloomfield Township

Matt Kush (Music Director)



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