Theater: In the Cross Hairs

Once king of the musical, Sondheim hasn't had a hit in years. Can a dark show restore his mojo?

Before his musical Assassins makes its long-awaited Broadway debut next week, Stephen Sondheim has one piece of friendly advice for New York City theatergoers. Leave town.

This is not a knock on a show that has been the unwanted child in a brood of Sondheim hits that stretch from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to Into the Woods. No, he's raising the alert level for good, practical reasons. Back in 1991, just before Assassins opened off-Broadway, the first Gulf War broke out. The patriotic climate was not ripe for a musical that showcased nine killers...

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