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Songs of America

Songs of America
Oswald's Moment: Fellow presidential assailants encourage Kennedy's killer in Assassins.

Into this raw-nerve cultural moment — one boiling with political rancor and intimations of violence — comes Las Vegas Little Theatre’s Assassins, a Tony-winning Sondheim musical about, yes, presidential assassins. It’s not political, says co-director Gillen Brey (with Walter Niejadlik), at least not in a current-events way; it does, however, investigate what America means, which imbues it with a kind of timeless timeliness. In a chronology-warping narrative, nine killers, from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, interact in various scenarios, including — so succulently metaphorical! — a carnival shooting gallery, all the while declaiming their grievances with the American Dream. Last year, a New York Times critic called it “the most shocking mainstream musical ever written.” Slightly less so in this post-October 1 version: Gillen says no presidents will be shot onstage. “This is not a time when we need to be seeing that.” There will be an emphasis on the show’s humor, too. (Her gun inoperable, one assailant throws bullets at Gerald Ford.) The 16 actors and 14 musicians will make the most of a creatively bare-bones set as they explore “what brought (the assassins) to these extremes,” Brey says. Connections to the current situation are there to be made — perhaps, according to the Times, when one character sings, “every now and then, the country goes a little wrong”? — but you’ll have to make them yourself.

January 18-February 3, various times, $22-$25, 3920 Schiff Drive,

(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)