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4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,197 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Evoking a fraternity of political assassins and would-be assassins across a hundred years of our history, Sondheim and Weidman daringly examine success, failure and the questionable drive for power and celebrity in American society. "Dark, demented humor, as horrifying as it is hilarious."--Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Theatre Communications Group
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,060)
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Jun 10, 2015 Yourfiendmrjones rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-drama-rama
How fortuitous that I read this and listened to the score this close to the next presidential race!

Seriously, this is the one of the great comments on the American need for glory and fame/success.
Lorma Doone
Feb 20, 2013 Lorma Doone rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays, books-i-own
For the longest time, my relationship with this piece was purely through the score. And what an extraordinary score it is. Yes, the book doesn't quite do the score the justice it deserves, but it's still pretty good, and when you put them together - GEEZ LOUISE. John Wilkes Booth, Leon Czolgosz and Samuel Byck get very strong (fictional) interpretations here with the text they're given. Bravo.
Jan 16, 2008 Faith-Anne rated it it was amazing
It's not very often that a musical is written to explore presidential assassins & would-be assassins. Sondheim's piece is thought-provoking & brilliant. I recommend getting a copy of either cast recording of Assassins to accompany reading the script. Both are marvelous.
May 24, 2016 Dave rated it really liked it
Assassins is my favorite Sondheim musical, though I've never seen it staged--so this rating is for the book of the play. The songs are funny, harrowing, and heartbreaking--sometimes all three. "The Ballad of Booth," "Gun Song," "Another National Anthem," "Everybody's Got the Right," and the entire Oswald section are riveting. I thought the non-musical rest would be as good, but the scene of the Ford assassins is rather silly and the Nixon hijacker rather annoying. Still, the overall meaning is s ...more
Aug 28, 2015 Donnell rated it liked it

Fascinating. From this book we learn that the typical assassin is a male who expected the "good life", as he defined it, but doesn't have it and feels powerless to get it. To kill a president--at a minimum--gets him a life with great power, even if that life will soon end as well.

Theory--yesterday's assassins have become today's mass shooters.

Why a musical about assassins? Perhaps because, as Truman Capote shows with Perry Smith in In Cold Blood, because perpetrators of violence can, at times,
Greg Kerestan
Feb 01, 2016 Greg Kerestan rated it really liked it
Few musicals are as chilling as this one. Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman build a compelling dark comedy around the foibles and neuroses of American political assassins, whether idealistic (Leon Czolgosz), self-serving (Charles Guiteau), grandiose (John Wilkes Booth) or simply crazy (Sam Byck, Squeaky Fromme). Their imaginary interactions and real-world crimes are explored, guided by the voice of the American dream (The Balladeer) and the voice of dissatisfaction and violent dissent (The Propr ...more
Jessica Barkl
Jun 04, 2016 Jessica Barkl rated it it was amazing
Loved this!!!!! I haven't read a musical in awhile that excited me as much as this one did. I'm thinking of doing it with the prisoners this year at Washington State Penitentiary. We have done WAITING FOR GODOT (an absurdist play) and THE ICEMAN COMETH (a realistic play), so, now I think we need to do a metatheatrical musical. This play is funny, timely, clever, and, did I mention great!, yes, great! Anyway, if you've never read it or heard it, download it now from I-Tunes and order the book. It ...more
Derrick Clements
May 21, 2011 Derrick Clements rated it it was amazing
I rarely give five stars to anything, and to be honest, I hesitate doing so here. Like many of Sondheim's works, I admire Assassins more than I actually enjoyed it. But the book by John Weidman (with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) manages to do something incredible: create a cast of characters that is incredibly human and relatable about nine successful and would-be assassins of US presidents.

Think about the difficulty of that task--a plot that spans centuries and cultures; fictional scenes in whic
May 16, 2016 Peyton rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-stars
While Weidman's book is a little sloppy, Assassins includes some of Sondheim's tightest, most deft lyrics. I like the concept of historical figures mingling in a realm outside of time, spurring one another on to great (or in this case, not-so-great) actions, and the titular assassins are all treated with humor and respect. Unfortunately, the story is dragged down by its cavalier attitude and self-conscious deconstruction of the American Dream. Rough language, rough characters, and rough themes a ...more
Sydney Young
Dec 05, 2014 Sydney Young rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
Very Interesting. The first song makes you think it is being glorified, but in truth it is just being explored from their POV. Not really in a sympathetic way, but in an honest way.
Aug 24, 2007 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
So gloriously less-than-PC. I'm glad I listened to the CD first though as I then had the joy of having the songs in my head as I read. I highly recommend reading this play after Assassination Vacation. A.V. gives you many of the facts of the various presidential assassinations and attempts, and that allows you to enjoy this play all the much more.

This play is during any given moment both hilarious and incredibly poignant. The Ballad of Booth is still my favorite and contains the immortal lines:
Joe Gaspard
Aug 17, 2015 Joe Gaspard rated it it was amazing
Perhaps my favorite musical, and if you love it, it's fun to read the libretto.
May 27, 2015 Chelsea rated it it was amazing
Assassins makes you laugh, it makes you uncomfortable, it makes you feel dirty for laughing, and that's some of my favorite kind of theater. Also, it's Sondheim. So it's clever and just wonderful. Nuff said.
May 01, 2014 Cassandra rated it it was amazing
I think this is by far the strongest book of all of Sondheim's musicals.
Aug 18, 2012 Justin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays-musicals
Sondheim turns what could have been "School House Rock Presents The Presidential Assassins" into an examination of The American Dream and its limitations. Assassins probably contains the most diverse array of musical styles in a single show Sondheim has used including Revolutionary era piccolo and drum, a folksy acoustic guitar love ballad unlike anything I've ever heard Sondheim write, and the grand, punctuated Golden Age Broadway sound. This pastiche meshes together a history of disillusionmen ...more
Jun 08, 2016 Ronja rated it really liked it
That was crazy shit. But I loved it
Leah Angstman
Feb 22, 2015 Leah Angstman rated it it was amazing
My favorite libretto of all time.
Sidik Fofana
Mar 23, 2015 Sidik Fofana rated it really liked it
SIX WORD REVIEW: Even killers pursue the American Dream.
Mar 18, 2015 Josie rated it really liked it
I blooming love this musical and having the book is just ugggghhhh it' so good!
Jan 05, 2015 Kathy rated it it was amazing
A truly underrated piece of theatre perfection.
Feb 04, 2015 Tash rated it it was amazing
Neil Schleifer
Aug 05, 2010 Neil Schleifer rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
The stories of the men and women pushed to the brink of madness by war, politics, entitlement, circumstance and a desire for fame to kill (or try to kill) the President of the United States are woven together with song to create a piece that is ultimately compelling, horrifying and at times wickedly funny. I daresay that if your politics lean toward the conservative side, you will hate this piece. But it is most definitely thought-provoking. How much would it take to push YOU over the edge?
Jan 14, 2009 Caitlin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-school, theater
One of my favorite musicals, Assassins is also one of the most deeply fucked up pieces of fiction I've ever encountered. Assassins focuses on the exclusive club of the would-be assassins of presidents - those who succeeded and those who did not. Each of the songs is incredibly compelling, musically speaking, and varying levels of incredibly disturbing, culminating with what seems to be a sweet love duet, until you remember it's John Hinckley Jr. and Squeaky Fromme singing.
Matthew Burkhardt
Jan 07, 2011 Matthew Burkhardt rated it it was amazing
I saw Assassins for the first time in college, then I saw it again on Broadway at Studio 54. I think it's one of the most thought-provoking musicals I've ever seen. Although it is no replacement for seeing it live, the book captures a lot of the show, though it's really nothing without listening to at least one of the cast recordings. The revival is more complete and has snippets of dialogue, but the 1991 Playwrights Horizons recording remains my favorite.
Mar 08, 2010 Chris rated it liked it
Finally read the book to this musical after being familiar with the music for years. I love the premise and the music (it's brilliant), but unfortunately the book is the weaker element. It is a bit unfocused and doesn't bring these characters together for a good enough reason. I good production of this musical however with a strong point of view might be able to fix this.
Dec 05, 2012 Sanne rated it liked it
This libretto proves how essential actual performance is to evaluate drama. The fact that this is just text, no music, no acting, makes it hard for me to rate it. Only with help of the CD I can say that especially the final scenes were breathtaking. What is particularly interesting here is how Weidman manages to give the assassins a face, to show how they came to their act.
Jun 17, 2008 Schmacko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This is the one musical I encourage peopel to listen to and read, because Weideman's book is brilliant. It really makes you think about the American ideal of entitlement carried to extreme. And it gives you lots of nifty history on our assassins and would-be assassins."
Jun 17, 2010 Silvia rated it liked it
Shelves: post-school
I finally got to read this musical/play about presidential assassins. Some parts I could imagine the songs, but regret that I have not seen a performance. Interesting but not spectacular, not the proper medium.
Feb 08, 2008 Bryan rated it it was amazing
Dec 10, 2013 Joshua rated it really liked it
Wonderful music and creative conceit. A little dramatically inert and episodic, but still an entertaining and unsettling look at and celebration of a group of American outsiders.
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Stephen Joshua Sondheim is an American musical and film composer and lyricist, winner of an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards (seven, more than any other composer), multiple Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. He has been described by Frank Rich in the The New York Times as "the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater." His most famous scores include (as composer/ ...more
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