An Opinionated and Irreverent Revue of the Differences Between the Original 1970 and Revised 1996 Scripts of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Musical Comedy.
"Women, women... Very nearly indispensable creatures of grace,"
The women's liberation movement had already gathered critical mass by 1970, but some of our attitudes towards women still needed some work. For example...
In the revised script, Marta, Kathy, and April are no longer referred to as girls. They are listed individually by name. Other spoken references about girls in the original script now refer to "women." It's a subtle difference, but a telling one.
This is very interesting in one sense, because (jumping ahead here) during the second balcony scene, after Susan and Marta exit, leaving Robert and Peter alone, Peter tells Robert "She's terrific, Robert. Are you excited about the younger generation?" Marta is now clearly younger than Robert, or Peter wouldn't have made that observation. But she is not a girl. Maybe a "grrrl", perhaps? On the other hand...
For the most part, the Park Bench scene is what it was before. Marta's song, Another Hundred People, is the still sung in three sections, breaking for the scenes about April and Kathy. April's scene is almost exactly the same as before, telling of the apartment she shares with her disinterested male roommate, but adding a new tag line to their exchange:
Robert: What would you do if either of you got married?
Marta's scene is still all about her love affair with New York. There are a few changes in phrasing, nothing more.
The scene with Kathy is something else again. In the original script, Kathy was something of a cipher, coming on to say she's going, and then going. I suppose there had to be some justification for having a trio of girlfriends, one of whom had to be a really terrific dancer who could make Tick Tock work in the second act. But it was a nothing scene, just taking up time until Marta caught her breath for her third round with her song.
No more. Now, it is a full-fledged scene. Kathy has brought Robert to this quiet little pocket park she's found "in the middle of the busy, noisy East Fifties" rather than go to a big party as he had planned. She compares herself to the park, out of place.
(As he leans in to kiss her she closes her eyes, but he only kisses her forehead in a brotherly way; she expected more)
They discover that they had both thought of marrying each other, and don't understand why they became friends instead. She then tells him of her impending move back to Cape Cod, in order to get married.
Robert: The problem is you want too little. That's the hardest thing in the world to get. (Pause) Thank you for your park.
It is as close to perfect a scene as is possible. Kathy now has character. Thank you, Mr. Furth, for recreating her.
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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