Powerful seems an inadequate word to describe this performance of Assassins by the young cast of Sandbach School Theatre. A predominantly male cast, unusual for school/youth theatre production is aided and abetted by some talented female actors in Emily Tate and Sinead McDonnell.
The guys, too many to mention individually, have very strong voices and perform to a very high overall standard. Despite playing older adults the viewer rarely gives this a thought as the delivery is mature.
This is a Stephen Sondheim musical and recounts the history of the U.S.A. through a series of assassination attempts, both successful and ones that ended in failure. It also tries to get into the psyche of the type of person who wants to make their mark having failed to make it in the land of opportunity. Interspersed with gunshots, practise shootings and assassinations, the show looks at America’s love affair with the gun and how easy it is to become a footnote in history by making a personal statement through a gunshot.
While this is a serious theme, Sondheim adds music from a wide range of genre including country and vaudeville with even a nod to his own contribution to ‘West Side Story’.
Unsurprisingly the story dwells on Lee Harvey Oswald and the lead up and reasons behind the most infamous assassination of modern times. However, that does not diminish other scenes of which the ballads of Booth and Guiteau are memorable.
The use of platforms at either side of stage help represent the conflict between the proprietor (Jamie Sharp) and the Balladeer (James Wilkinson). Both actors are excellent but the powerful delivery of the latter surely marks James out as one to watch. This production is skilfully directed with imaginative use of (bulletproof?) glass screens.
The ensemble work is delivered at pace and to a standard not out of place in a professional show. Venues present different challenges and while this is an impressive hall, those at both sides at the front will lose out on some of the visual effects. Overall, this is an impressive production with a very talented cast suitable for over-twelves.
Runs to 20 Aug, 4.30pm