Critics praise alumni revival of musical ‘Assassins’


Faculty and alumni perform in “Assassins” in the Pico Playhouse. Upper School Dean Adam Howard (third from right) plays Leon Czolgosz. Photograph used with permission of Adam Howard.

Sabrina de Brito

Alumni are involved in the revival of the five-time Tony award winning musical “Assassins,” which opened on Aug. 21 to positive critical reviews. The show runs to Sept. 27 at The Pico Playhouse in Los Angeles, and tickets are on sale now at

The musical is being produced by Red Blanket Productions, a company begun by primary producer and actor Zach Lutsky ’93 and director Dan Fishbach ’94.

“[Assassins] is a commentary on the realization that the promise of the American dream is not reachable for most people,” Lutsky said. “[The show portrays] people coming to terms with the fact that, in a lot of ways, the promise of the American dream is unrealistic, or even a lie.”

The musical illustrates the lives of nine people who assassinated or attempted to assassinate past US presidents. Written by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, the show takes the audience through different decades in order to watch criminals from various time periods meet, interact and influence one another.

Will Adashek ’01 supervised lighting design, Lili Fuller ’05 was choreographer and middle school performing arts teacher Alex Kolmanovsky did the set design.

Upper school dean Adam Howard ’93 plays the role of Leon Czolgosz, who killed President William McKinley in 1901.

“I was drawn to Czolgosz both musically, as well as to his seemingly timeless frustrations,” Howard said in an email. “Czolgosz may have been a figure from the end of the 19th century, but his issues with government and socio-economic restriction seem very relevant to some of the anger we see today.”

Lutsky plays as John Hinckley who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. He said he hopes that other alumni will come see the final production, as it represents how far one can go with connections made in the Harvard-Westlake community.

“I think only Steven Sondheim would have the brilliance to make a musical about people who kill presidents – and yet, it is funny, and powerful and moving,” Lutsky said. “The themes of [Assassins] and the power of it is in not trying to sympathize or forgive these people through American history, but maybe just try to understand how it could have happened.”

“Producers Dan Fishbach and Zach Lutsky courageously and memorably make ‘Assassins’ their own,” critic Don Grigware wrote on theater review website two days after opening night. “It may not be one of Sondheim’s best musicals, but it is surely thought-provoking, bizarrely entertaining and worthy of your attention; this production of the musical is as good as it gets.”