ST. GEORGE — For most people, the idea of gathering the likes of Charles Guiteau, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and others of similar ilk into a single location would be a recipe for disaster. However, at the hands of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, along with the cast at The Stage Door Theatre Company, this meeting of would-be and successful killers  Assassins is a recipe for a thought-provoking, albeit somewhat disturbing, evening of dark entertainment.

Performed as a one-act musical, this fascinating peek at the stories behind the nine assassination attempts on United States presidents — with four resulting in the presidents’ deaths — pushes outside the box of musicals typically staged in southern Utah. Audiences are given fair warning via a posted sign, that this musical contains “adult language, guns, murder, suicide, execution, a derogatory slur, discussion of cults and brainwashing.”

It’s hard to imagine a project featuring the backstories of some of history’s noted assassins without those topics coming up.

But what is equally fascinating is the way in which Assassins opens the door to a larger conversation about what these criminals may have had in common, what impact each one’s actions might have had on future assassination attempts, and what their existence in history says about these individuals and the American collective.

It’s a lot to digest in a musical — particularly while trying to parse out which elements are meant to be historical, and which are more satirical. However, the rich, musical elements steerthe audience along with visual guidance by way of video projections of historical photographs, news articles and video footage, and narration provided by the Balladeer (played beautifully by Owen Scott) all come together to take the audience on an unsettling yet satisfying ride.

Microphone issues during the production detracted from some of the early lines and lyrics but, thankfully, those issues were mostly resolved roughly one-third of the way through the show. The acting, in this production of Assassins was second-to-none. While the vocal talents of the cast as a whole were good, many of the individuals were perhaps cast for their acting abilities first, and vocal talent second. The nature of Sondheim’s music in this piece lends itself to more dissonance and speak-singing styles, rather than sweeping melodies that reverberate off the back wall.

Assassins ; Stage Door ; St George ; Washington County ; 2024

Assassins plays at the Stage Door through July 6.

A few standouts include Eric Liebhardt’s portrayal of Guiseppe Zangara, the man who attempted to assassinate Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Zangara’s actions eventually earned him a seat in the electric chair. Liebhardt’s depiction of his character’s ultimate demise was eerie and disquieting in the best way thanks to Liebhardt’s physical acting. His body movements throughout the production — from his anguish over the pains in his stomach, to the eventual electrocution — were all extremely believable. Liehardt’s ability to deliver many of his lines understandably in a foreign tongue near the end of the show only solidified his skills as an excellent actor.

Equally unsettling was the casual manner in which Meg Williams as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was able to willingly slip into the grasp of cult leader and convicted murderer Charles Manson, and ultimately attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. Her interactions with Sarah Jane Moore (played exquisitely by Becca Gibby) were both humorous and heart-breaking as these two women sorted through their personal baggage and eventually found common ground in their decision to make an attempt on President Ford’s life. Although historically these attempts happened several weeks apart, the decision to have the women on stage attempting at the same time worked well both for storytelling purposes, and some much-needed levity.

Williams also showcased her vocal chops to great advantage alongside Ammon Bott who played John Hinckley, the man responsible for the attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life in 1981. As the two sing with passion and fervor in the hauntingly beautiful “Unworthy of Your Love”  the juxtaposition of Williams’ lyrics sung before a backdrop of Charles Manson’s photograph sent a chilling message.

It takes a certain caliber of actor to hold the audience’s attention during a lengthy monologue, but several of these talented actors were able to do just that. Perhaps none more so than J. Bryan Dial in his portrayal of Samuel Byck, who hijacked a plane in an attempt to crash into the White House with the goal of killing President Richard Nixon in 1974. Dial as Byck portrayed a high level of passion during his several solo moments on stage, creating tension and interest in his plight and his illicit plans.

While the content of Assassins may not be for everyone, under the skillful direction of Joshua Scott and music direction by, this latest production from The Stage Door is worth the attention of anyone with an interest in history, and a craving for meaningful conversations. The portrayal of these elements of discord and disenchantment among some people in America is certainly a timely topic, and as the ensemble sings, “Something Just Broke,” perhaps a deeper conversation can eventually lead to solutions to these complicated issues.

ASSASSINS plays at The Stage Door inside The Electric Theatre Wednesday through Saturdays through July 6 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on June 29. For more information, please visit