''{{Theatre/Assassins}}'', with a book by John Weidman and score by StephenSondheim, is, to put it simply, [[BlackHumor a revue featuring nine men and women who have killed (or attempted to kill) the President of the United States.]]

The show is narrated by the Balladeer, who comments on the assassins' actions and motivations. The various killers (including John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau, John Hinckley, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, and Leon Czolgosz) interact throughout the play, regardless of time period. Their assassination attempts are represented like a carnival game -- a bell rings when they succeed, and a buzzer sounds when they fail.

The show is often seen as a dark reflection on the nebulous idea of "the American dream". The assassins are dispossessed, disenfranchised and disillusioned, but they still hold a disproportionate sense of entitlement because they are in America: the land where ''any'' kid can grow up to be president, the land where -- as the opening song puts it -- "everybody's got the right to their dreams". It also takes a sideways look at gun culture in America.

Notable in that the music largely mirrors popular music from the assassins' lifetimes. And also for the HUGE amounts of LyricalDissonance.

Not to be confused with ProfessionalKiller. Also not to be confused with [[Film/{{Assassins}} the film of the same name]].
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!!This show provides examples of:

* AffablyEvil: Charles Guiteau is a jolly, optimistic guy who assassinated a president.
* AGoodWayToDie: Booth and Guiteau very much believed they were martyrs and that they sacrificed themselves to save the country.
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: Squeaky Fromme is in love with [[UsefulNotes/CharlesManson "Charlie" Manson]].
* AmbitionIsEvil: The show implies that even though "everybody's got the right to their dreams", you shouldn't necessarily try to achieve them when they're impossible.
* AmericanAccents: Booth, despite being from Maryland, often has a [[SouthernGentleman genteel Southern accent]] (probably because [[TheCoconutEffect we expect him to]]), Byck has a cranky Philadelphia accent, and Moore can have a Southern accent in some productions (she was from West Virginia).
* AmericanDream: That of the cynical flavor.
* AnachronicOrder: The timeline jumps everywhere. Not counting the in-between character building scenes, the assassinations/attempts are presented in the order of Lincoln, [=FDR=], [=McKinley=], Reagan, Garfield, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy. Historical order was Lincoln, Garfield, [=McKinley=], [=FDR=], Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Reagan--but that doesn't really fit with a proper dramatic structure.
* AnachronismStew: Characters from vastly different historical eras are seen interacting with each other.
* AndThereWasMuchRejoicing: Happens among the assassins at the end when Lee Harvey Oswald shoots JFK. The chorus... [[TearJerker not so much]].
* AntiVillain: The play makes the assassins very sympathetic in some regards, especially Czolgosz.
* ArtisticLicenseHistory: A few instances:
** Booth did not shoot himself, he was killed by one of the soldiers chasing him shooting through a hole in the barn he was inside.
** Guiteau did not ask Garfield for the Ambassador to France position in the train station, and moreover the position he wanted was "Consul to Paris"
** Moore and Fromme did not attempt to shoot Ford on the same occasion; they were about three weeks apart.
* [[MurderIsTheBestSolution Assassination Is The Best Solution]]
* AssassinOutclassin: Naturally, the targets of the failed assassinations.
* AssholeVictim: UsefulNotes/RichardNixon, UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan, UsefulNotes/WilliamMcKinley, and, eventually, [[spoiler: the audience.]]
** Arguably, [[spoiler: The Balladeer in the revival productions where the Assassins take him down and turn him into Oswald.]] He deliberately avoids granting any validity to the Assassins' claims that they're the result of the dark-side of the American dream-instead dismissing them as crazy attention-seekers and malcontents and thereby perpetuating the cycle of desperation, disillusionment, and apathy that created them in the first place.
* BadSanta: Byck, in the sense that he isn't actually Santa Claus. [[spoiler: Because there isn't any Santa Claus!]]
* BalladOfX: The Ballads of Booth, Guiteau and Czolgosz.
* BeliefMakesYouStupid: The show depicts how belief in any ideology, even that of liberty, can cloud one's judgement and lead them to do things they would otherwise never have considered.
* BerserkButton: Try not to remind Leon Czolgosz of the job where he boiled his lungs, fried his skin with burning glass, watched his friends die, and got paid six cents an hour just to make some lousy bottles. And whatever you do, DON'T break one of those bottles right in front of him.
** Guiteau is a real [[TheCasanova Casanova]] in his attempt to seduce Moore, but when her gun goes off near his head, he flips out.
* BigBad: John Wilkes Booth, for starting this whole mess in the first place (and, in the continuity of the play, creating Lee Harvey Oswald).
* BigNo: Zangara at the end of "How I Saved Roosevelt."
* BlackComedy
* BondingOverMissingParents: Fromme and Moore.
* BookDumb: Arguably, Sam Byck. He is very eloquent and capable of crafting surprisingly poetic metaphors, but he doesn't understand megatonnes or holes in the ozone layer.
* BookEnds: The show begins and ends with "Everybody's Got The Right".
* BreakingTheFourthWall: Zangara yells at the audience during "How I Saved Roosevelt" for laughing.
** Guiteau, during "The Gun Song": "''What a wonder is a gun! What a versatile invention! First of all when you've a gun...'' [aims gun at the front row] ''...everybody pays attention!''"
* BreakingSpeech: Near the very end of the show. The sequence labelled November 22, 1963 is where John Wilkes Booth and company convince Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate JFK.
* BSODSong: "The Ballad of Guiteau", particularly Guiteau's last solo section.
* CampStraight: Guiteau, who despite his mannerisms is still attracted to Sarah Jane Moore.
* CloudCuckoolander: Sara Jane Moore.
** Squeaky and Guiteau as well.
* ConfusedBystanderInterview: Half of the song "How I Saved Roosevelt" is bystanders who witnessed the attempted assassination of Roosevelt talking to the press, and inflating their own importance in the event.
* ContractOnTheHitman
* CrapsackWorld: The show depicts America as one.
* CrazyEnoughToWork: Zangara's plan to get rid of his stomach ache by assassinating the president of the United States.
** Most of the assassins' plans boil down to "I want something, killing the president will help me get it". How crazy this idea is in context varies from assassin to assassin.
** Zangara's plan worked to an extent, as in real life he refused to attempt to defend his murder charge on the grounds that the Mayor of Chicago may have died of complications or previous injuries.
* CrowdSong: "How I Saved Roosevelt".
* CurseCutShort: In the opening:
-->'''Booth/Proprietor:''' ''Free country!''
-->'''Booth:''' ''Means you don't have to sit--''
-->'''Proprietor''' ''That's it!''
-->'''Booth:''' ''--and put up with the sh-''
-->'''Company:''' ''Everybody's got the right to some sunshine!''
* CutSong: "The Flag Song", which was later used in ''Road Show'' with altered lyrics.
* TheCynic: Czolgosz.
* DarkReprise: "Everybody's Got The Right". After the events of the show, the song gains new meaning.
* DeathIsNotPermanent: Used symbolically; the assassins don't die, because their acts have made them immortal.
* DecadeDissonance: Used for effect in the score.
* DecapitatedArmy: PlayedWith, Booth believes that having killed Lincoln, the Civil War can finally end.
* DespairEventHorizon: Most of the assassins have already passed this point by the time they come onstage. {{Lampshaded}} by Booth when Oswald tries to justify killing himself.
* TheDitz: Sarah Jane Moore's characterization essentially boils down to this.
* DividedStatesOfAmerica: Booth says Lincoln "threw the 'U' out of 'USA'".
* DontExplainTheJoke: Sara Jane Moore:
--> Fromme: You had amnesia?
--> Moore: I did? (Laughs) It's a joke. See, it's like, if I had amnesia, then I couldn't remember anything, including that I had amnesia.
* DramaticGunCock
--> "What a wonder is a gun,
--> What a versatile invention.
--> First of all, when you've a gun . . .
--> *Cocks gun*
--> Everybody pays attention!"
* DrivenToSuicide: John Wilkes Booth (but it doesn't stop him from being in the rest of the show).
* DudeWheresMyReward: The beginning of "Another National Anthem".
* DyingAlone: Booth and Zangara.
* TheElevenOClockNumber: A dark twist on the trope with "Another National Anthem".
* EloquentInMyNativeTongue: Zangara, which is used to gorgeous dramatic effect in the Lee Harvey Oswald scene.
* FaceDeathWithDignity: Booth is the only one to do this.
* FatBastard: Sam Byck. So very, very much.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Booth is polite and charming and very handsome. He's still a racist lowlife that murdered a president and (in the show), encourages others to do the same. Unlike, say, Guiteau, Booth's pleasantness is an act, made to serve his own ends.
* ForegoneConclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald ends up killing Kennedy. Knowing this doesn't make the scene any less nail-bitingly tense.
* TheFourthWallWillNotProtectYou: The Balladeer gets attacked by the assassins. And, at the end of the play, the assassins point their guns at the audience and fire.
* FunnyForeigner: Subverted with Giuseppe Zangara in two ways: first, as he mentions in "How I Saved Roosevelt," he's a (naturalized) American citizen. Second, in the scene where he begs Oswald to go through with killing Kennedy, he chooses to speak Italian, with the other assassins translating for him, proving he's more [[EloquentInMyNativeTongue eloquent in his native tongue]]. It's also oddly referenced with Czolgosz: according to the script, he was "born in the middle of Michigan," making him an American citizen, but he comments that he comes down in history as a "deranged immigrant."
* TheGhost: Half the Presidents.
* GilliganCut: Guiteau's "I am a terrifying and imposing figure!" is often followed by something not terrifying or imposing.
* GoodAngelBadAngel: The Balladeer and the Proprietor serve as these to the Assassins; the former condemns their actions and dispenses {{The Reason You Suck Speech}}es, while the latter encourages their dark aspirations and even sells them the guns. The contrast is particularly clear during "Another National Anthem."
* GriefSong: "Something Just Broke", where the American people grieve for the victims of the assassinations.
* GunmanWithThreeNames: {{Lampshaded}} in a chilling moment between John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald.
--->'''Booth:''' Why do all these rednecks have three names? James Earl Ray! John Wilkes Booth!
--->'''Oswald:''' Lee Harvey Oswald!
** Bonus points for that being the first time we [[SayMyName hear Oswald's full name.]] (Booth has, up to this point, just called him "Lee.")
* HandsOnApproach: Guiteau gets ''very'' handsy with Sarah Jane Moore while giving her shooting tips.
* HotBlooded: Booth and Zangara, in slightly different ways.
* {{Hypocrite}}: Booth and his associates. Besides trying to fulfill their dreams by depriving others of theirs, they fire into the audience. As Booth said, "adulters and shopkeepers get murdered" when differentiated himself and Oswald from murders. Plenty of them probably in the audience.
* IAmSong: "Unworthy of Your Love" is an interesting example, as it is more about Hinckley and Fromme's disturbed insecurity than about their love interests. It is essentially an IAmSong masquerading as an IWantSong.
* IJustWantToBeLoved: Booth hypothesizes this as Oswald's motivation.
-->'''Oswald''': People... will hate me!
-->'''Booth''': They will hate you with a ''passion,'' Lee. Imagine! People having passionate feelings about [[FullNameUltimatum Lee Harvey Oswald]].
* IneffectualSympatheticVillain: Moore and Hinckley.
* ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy: Sarah Jane Moore, by her own admission.
-->"I couldn't hit William Howard Taft if he was sitting on my lap."
* InnocentInnuendo: Guiteau and Moore:
--> '''Guiteau:''' Show me your form.
--> '''Moore:''' [[BigWhat WHAT?]]
--> '''Guiteau:''' ...the way you shoot.
* InsaneEqualsViolent
* InsaneTrollLogic: John Wilkes Booth is a master of this, being the originator of this entire sick tradition.
** After Zangara complains that nothing practical he's done has helped his stomach problems John Wilkes Booth asks if he's tried killing President Roosevelt.
--->'''Zangara:''' You think that help?
--->'''Booth:''' It couldn't hurt.
** This particular exchange between Booth and Oswald.
--->'''Oswald:''' I didn't come here to shoot the President!
--->'''Booth:''' He didn't come here to get shot.
* InteractiveNarrator: The Balladeer.
* IWantSong: Dark version: "Everybody's Got the Right".
* LargeHam: Charlie Guiteau
* {{Leitmotif}}: Several. The biggest one being the slowed down version of "Hail to the Chief", which plays as the opening of "Everybody's Got The Right", when Emma Goldman delivers her speech, after each ballad and after Oswald has shot Kennedy.
** Another example is the "c'mere and kill a president" theme, which is heard again when the assassins are all chanting how they can "connect" in a free country, which subconsciously tells us exactly how they believe they can get around doing that.
* LemonyNarrator: The Balladeer
* LonersAreFreaks: John Hinckley.
* LoveMakesYouEvil: John Hinckley and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, as seen in "Unworthy of Your Love".
* LyricalDissonance: Pretty much every single song. The music invokes every kind of warm, homespun Americana you can think of, while the lyrics turn that vision of America on its head.
* MidwordRhyme: "How I Saved Roosevelt" contains a mid-''letter'' rhyme, which when written down looks sort of like:
-->We'd have been left
-->Bereft
-->Of F
-->DR
* MoodWhiplash: Guiteau's above-mentioned BreakingTheFourthWall and Sara Jane Moore's RummageFail in "The Gun Song."
* MoralityBallad: The three ballads dedicated to Booth, Czolgosz, and Guiteau.
* MotiveRant: The opening of "Another National Anthem."
* MurderBallad: The three assassins with eponymous ballads (see above) are the only three successful assassins, before Oswald in the final scene.
* MusicalPastiche: Nearly every song.
* TheMusicMeister: The Balladeer has elements of this. Also, to a lesser extent, the Proprietor.
* NotSoDifferent: "Unworthy of Your Love" makes it clear that Hinckley and Fromme's situations are quite similar, even though they spend the scene prior to the song squabbling and insulting each other.
* ObsessionSong: "Unworthy of Your Love", a duet between John Hinckley and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme about their respective obsessions, Jodie Foster and Charles Manson. Both sides are of the passive type.
* OneSteveLimit: Averted, there are two John's (Booth and Hinckley), and two Charlie's if you count [[TheGhost Charles Manson]]
* ThePollyanna: Charles J. Guiteau, who, even when waiting to be executed, is compelled to "look on the bright side".
* PresidentEvil: Well, from some of the assassins' point of view.
* RageAgainstTheAuthor: The song "Another National Anthem" has elements of this, culminating in the Assassins ''running the Balladeer off the stage'' (in the original version) or turning him into ''one of them'' (in the revival, where he becomes Lee Harvey Oswald).
** Also, a minor reflexive example: one of Sam Byck's tirades is aimed at Leonard Bernstein and Byck angrily quotes the lyrics of ''Theatre/WestSideStory'' back at him. Those lyrics were, of course, written by Stephen Sondheim.
* RecklessGunUsage: Sarah Jane Moore is written to be played with no regard for the proper operation or storage of her .38 revolver. She accidentally discharges it no less than five times during the course of the show, once while it's still in her hand bag, narrowly missing Squeaky Fromme, once into the air when she's supposed to be clicking the hammer of an unloaded weapon in "The Gun Song," once when startled with her finger prematurely on the trigger, damaging Charles Guiteau's hearing in the process, and twice during two separate scene change blackouts, with the lights coming up on her scene the second time to reveal she's just [[IJustShotMarvinInTheFace accidentally shot her own dog]].
-->'''Sara Jane''': [[CrowningMomentOfFunny ''Shit, I shot it!'']]
* RummageFail: Sarah Jane Moore and the "really great gun".
* ShoutOut: The first line the balladeer sings in "The Ballad of Guiteau" is a shout out to the American folk song "Charles Guiteau".
** Booth references the sad story of [[DeathOfASalesman Willie Loman]] and compares the character to Oswald. (It's a bit of a MindScrew: Booth is an actor, so of course he would be familiar with ''Salesman,'' if it hadn't been written 80 years after his death.)
** In a slightly more FridgeBrilliance example, Sam Byck negatively quotes some of the lyrics to "America" from ''WestSideStory'', which Sondheim ''[[CrowningMomentOfAwesome also wrote.]]''
* ShownTheirWork: All over the place, in subtle ways.
** Most notably, Guiteau's "Going to the Lordy" bit in his ballad is taken from lyrics the real Guiteau wrote shortly before his execution. (He read it at his execution, and had actually requested an orchestra to accompany him, but that part was nixed. [[FridgeBrilliance He finally got one in the show.]]
** Displayed in the final scene with Lee Harvey Oswald, when Booth proves his supernatural nature by telling Oswald a brief version of Oswald's life story.
** Another example: a band was playing marches by John Philip Sousa at the event where Zangara made his attempt on FDR's life. Zangara's number, "How I Saved Roosevelt", features several Sousa marches woven together.
---->"''And wasn't the band just fantastic''--"
** In the "Ballad of Booth", John Wilkes Booth's dying words are that "the country is not what it was", which are taken from his final diary entry.
** In "The Ballad of Czolgosz", it gets extremely detailed about Czolgosz and the events that surrounded that day. His backstory is correct, he actually did wrap a handkerchief around his gun, and (if you look at a map of the Pan-American Exposition) they actually got the layout of the event right. Extra points for the song revolving around "working your way to the head of the line," referencing Czolgosz standing in line for the kill.
* SillyLoveSongs: Expertly pastiched with "Unworthy of Your Love" (see above).
* SirSwearsALot: Moore and Byck, to a lesser extent Fromme.
* StalkerWithACrush: Hinckley and Fromme. See above.
* SoapboxSadie: Fromme. She can't even have a simple chat with Sara Jane Moore without derailing into a [[SeriousBusiness totally serious]] rant about the evils of lipstick, fast food, football, etc.
* [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech The Reason You Suck Song]]: The Balladeer's half of all the ballads and "Another National Anthem," mocking the gathered assassins of their aspirations, telling them they just shed a little blood each. The Balladeer is ''not'' impressed by the rhetoric of the assassins and makes that blatantly clear.
* ThrowTheBookAtThem: During "November 22, 1963", "This is stupid. Up here on the sixth floor, what would I do? Throw school books at him?"
* TriggerHappy: All the protagonists, of course. In particular, Czolgosz, Booth, Moore, and Guiteau sing a paean to the power of guns.
* TriumphantReprise: After Oswald shoots Kennedy, we hear a large version of the previous "Hail To The Chief" waltz theme.
* TrueCompanions: The assassins themselves. As they say to Oswald during his song, "We're your family."
* VillainousBreakdown: Guiteau at the end of "The Ballad of Guiteau" when it ''finally'' dawns on him that he's about to be hanged.
-->''I am going to the Lordy''
-->''I am so glad''
-->''I am going to the Lordy''
-->''I am so glad''
-->''I have unified my party!''
-->''I have saved my country!''
-->''I shall be'' '''REMEMBERED!'''
* VillainProtagonist: Everyone except the Balladeer. [[spoiler: Also, in the revival, the Balladeer - he turns into Lee Harvey Oswald.]]
* VillainSong: "Everybody's Got the Right".
* TheVillainSucksSong: The aforementioned ballads.
* VoiceTypes: Surprisingly, almost the entire spectrum is represented, at least with the men.
** Fromme: Mezzo/pop Belter
** Sarah Jane Moore: Mezzo
** Zangara: Tenor
** Balladeer: Folk tenor
** Guiteau: Tenor/high baritone
** Hinckley: Pop Baritone
** Booth: Baritone
** Czolgosz: Bass-baritone
** Proprietor: Bass
** Byck: Comic baritone
* WhamEpisode: In the original off-Broadway production, there was frequently an audible gasp from the audience at the top of the final scene. After spending over an hour with the other assassins and their stories, the audience had become absorbed in them and had forgotten about the existence of Lee Harvey Oswald, until with a sudden crash they were confronted with the immediacy of the story, and the dramatization of a day many members of that 1991 audience remembered vividly.
* WhoShotJFK: Referenced in the final scene, with the characters convincing Lee Harvey Oswald to go through with the shooting.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: Czolgosz, as least compared to the other assassins.
* YouBastard: When Zangara yells at the audience for laughing at him. It's a real MoodWhiplash moment.
* YoureInsane: Lee Harvey Oswald says this when he's told to shoot the president.
* YourTerroristsAreOurFreedomFighters
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