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‘Assassins’ scopes out Booth bow

Mantello to helm B'Way bow of presidential killer legiter

The Booth Theatre has precisely the right title.

Nearly 11 years after its Off Broadway world premiere, “Assassins,” by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, will open on Broadway at the Booth in November under the auspices of the Roundabout Theatre Co.

On June 2, the Roundabout workshopped the controversial musical about presidential assassins — John Wilkes Booth among them. Joe Mantello helmed that workshop, and he will return to direct the full-scale Broadway production.

‘Search’ goes on

That month, Shubert chairman Gerald Schoenfeld told Daily Variety that the group was in discussions with the Roundabout regarding a theater. The Shubert Organization owns the Booth, which is home to “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” starring Lily Tomlin. No closing has been posted for the one-woman show, which returned its $1 million capitalization in January and has extended its original 10-week run twice to date. The engagement is open-ended.

The magician Ricky Jay was expected, but never officially announced, to replace Tomlin at the Booth.

“Assassins” had its world premiere at the not-for-profit Playwrights Horizons on Jan. 28, 1991, and closed after a limited three-week run. The production was directed by Jerry Zaks, and starred Jace Alexander as Lee Harvey Oswald, Victor Garber as Booth, Annie Golden as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Debra Monk as Sara Jane Moore, among others.

Reviewers called the show inventive but very uneven and relentlessly pessimistic. Atypical for a Sondheim tuner, no Broadway production ever materialized, but the musical has received several stagings at regional theaters over the past decade. The production of “Assassins” at the Booth will be its first Gotham engagement since it was first performed at Playwrights Horizons.

Tuning up

Last June, Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes told Daily Variety that Weidman had worked on the musical’s book. “There were some revisions, but I wouldn’t call them major.”

At the time, Haimes would not comment on whether the anticipated “Assassins” production would play the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre or its smaller Gramercy Theatre. As with the not-for-profit theater’s current revival of Sondheim’s “Follies,” opening April 5 at the Belasco Theatre, the Roundabout chose to put “Assassins” into a commercial Broadway house.

The Roundabout reading of “Assassins” on June 2, featured Neil Patrick Harris as Oswald, Michael Hall as Booth, Stephen Spinella as Charles Guiteau and Brian D’Arcy James as Giuseppe Zangara, among others.

Casting has not been announced for the Broadway production.

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