Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Assassins” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,040 ratings  ·  37 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
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Assassins, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Assassins

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsThe Crucible by Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee WilliamsWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Best American Plays
69th out of 183 books — 270 voters
Les Misérables by Victor HugoHamlet by William ShakespeareA Midsummer Night's Dream by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeWicked by Gregory Maguire
The Best Plays or Musicals
108th out of 273 books — 123 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,711)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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.
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.

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,
Derrick Clements
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
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
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.
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
Perhaps my favorite musical, and if you love it, it's fun to read the libretto.
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.
I think this is by far the strongest book of all of Sondheim's 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
Leah Angstman
My favorite libretto of all time.
Sidik Fofana
SIX WORD REVIEW: Even killers pursue the American Dream.
I blooming love this musical and having the book is just ugggghhhh it' so good!
Jessica Barkl
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
A truly underrated piece of theatre perfection.
Neil Schleifer
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
One of the 5 "Greatest Creations of Mankind"

It speaks volumes about American culture and theatre.
Sondheim and Weidman are a deadly combination.
Mackenzie Ann
a play. about...assassins. i read it for a class and i liked it. if i get the chance to see it, i will. must have a perfunctory knowledge of american history.
Read during college for a class. I'd seen the show once before and loved it. I love the ideas that were played with during the Broadway revival.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 57 58 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • 1776
  • Caroline, or Change
  • Urinetown: The Musical
  • A Chorus Line: The Complete Book of the Musical
  • Next to Normal
  • Dog Sees God
  • Stephen Sondheim: A life
  • Pippin
  • Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops
  • The Pirates of Penzance
  • Eurydice
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You & The Actor's Nightmare
  • Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays
  • I Am My Own Wife
  • Red
  • Metamorphoses
  • Talk Radio (TCG Edition)
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
More about Stephen Sondheim...
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Into the Woods (TCG Edition) Sunday in the Park With George Company: A Musical Comedy Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics, 1954-1981, With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines, and Anecdotes

Share This Book