A veteran of community theater, Greg Summerall knows things can go wrong on opening night, and that risk grows the more variables you add to a show.
“Assasins,” his latest directorial effort with the , has a lot of moving parts.
“This show is a lot more high-tech,” Summerall said. "We have more lighting and sound cues. We are playing with a full orchestra. There’s just a lot more variables in there that you have to control."
All the more surprising then that opening night, Sept. 2, went off without a hitch.
“It came off great,” Summerall said. "The audience was really enthusiastic and we got a lot of great compliments after the show.”
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by John Weidman, “Assassins” uses the premise of a murderous carnival game to produce a revue-style portrayal of men and women who attempted (successfully or otherwise) to assassinate United States presidents. The music varies to reflect the popular music of the eras depicted.
The musical first opened Off-Broadway in 1990; the 2004 Broadway production won five Tony Awards.
“The whole central point of the show is anyone can grow up to be president and anyone can grow up to shoot a president,” Summerall said. "It all comes down to the choices you make.”
There were a few dubious glances when Summerall first suggested staging “Assassins” last year.
“People said, ‘Who is going to come see it?’ Well, apparently, a lot of people judging by the response we are getting,” Summerall said.
Although a slightly tongue-in-cheek production when it was first staged, post 9/11 the show has a more serious undertone now, Summerall said.
“Those attacks showed anything can happen so I think audiences take the play a little more to heart now,” he said.
“Assassins” is Summerall’s 12th outing as a director. Starting as an actor in high school, Summerall began working with community theater groups after graduating from Brandon High School.
“I’ve been very selective about what shows I want to do,” he said. "I try to find a story I can relate to and others can relate to as well. If I don’t enjoy the story I’m not going to be interested in directing it.”
An all-consuming job, directing involves everything from auditions to lighting.
“As [veteran director and former Brandon High theater teacher] Jim McCabe used to tell us, you have to be committed to the story,” Summerall said. "If you are not it will show on stage.”
“Assassins” is in a three-weekend run at The James McCabe Theater, 506 5th St., Valrico. Show dates are: Sept. 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17. The show starts at 7:30 and runs to 10:30 p.m.