When the Roundabout Theater Company first staged Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins in 2004, after a successfull Off-Broadway run, the show, which centers on nine infamous American assassins, took home four Tonys and just as many Drama Desk awards. Now the show is back—complete with director Joe Mantello and stars Mario Cantone, Michael Cerveris, Mary Catherine Garrison, Neil Patrick Harris and Denis O’Hare—for one night only on Dec. 3 as a benefit for the Roundabout.
DuJour checked in with Cantone—who is attempted Nixon assassin Samuel Byck, a role he played in Roundabout’s 2004 version—about the benefit performance.
What originally drew you to Assassins, and what made you want to revisit it?
I saw Assassins three times Off-Broadway in 1990/91. Eight years ago when I heard Joe Mantello was doing it for Roundabout Theatre Company on Broadway, I called him. I had to be in it. And as far as revisiting it. Do you think I’d want them to do it without me??
What makes doing the show as a benefit for the Roundabout appealing?
I’ve done many benefits for Roundabout. If they call and I’m available, I do them. They are always great nights, and it’s for a wonderful company.
How did you relate to your character the first time around? Has that changed?
The rage and the anger. Otherwise, I didn’t really.
What do you think politically-aware theatergoers have to learn from Assassins?
The smart ones will see that it does not glorify assassins. These are disillusioned people who, in their mentally-ill minds think they are doing a service for the country or just want their 15 minutes.
Is Samuel Byck the most disturbing character you’ve played?