Justin Smith as Samuel Byck. Photo: Johnny Diaz Nicolaidis. Artwork: Jeff van de Zandt

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Assassins is an odd premise for a musical. A group of misfits gather at a fairground shooting gallery with a problem to solve. Each come to the same conclusion. They must kill the President of the United States! From John Wilkes Booth through Lee Harvey Oswald to John Hinckley Jr, Assassins takes us through the brain-space of those who would seek to commit the ultimate crime and their desire to be recognised in a world where they are dismissed and ignored – and all through the intelligently stunning words and music of Stephen Sondheim.

Justin Smith plays Sam Byck, who scarily set the blueprint for 9/11. He decided Nixon had to go, so he strapped on a petrol bomb to hijack a plane. It never got off the ground. “Bits of my monologue are kind of creepy”, says Smith, “you realise that underneath the wit is a crazy man.”

Having loved the show for ages, Smith agrees that Assassins is more relevant now than ever, especially for Australians. “It’s very timely. Disenfranchisement in Western politics is pretty much everywhere. This feeling of ‘disconnect’ between normal citizens and the democracy that they are a part of is easily latched onto in our country.”

Sell-out seasons are now a regular occurrence at the Hayes, underlining an emerging appetite for sophisticated, niche musical theatre in Sydney. “The real devotees would have a list of shows they love that would normally never see the light of day in Australia”, says Smith. “A lot of the American stuff is so well written – so there is this whole untapped canon of work that they can explore and this show is one of them.”

Sep 15-Oct 14. Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point, $58-$78. Tickets & Info: www.hayestheatre.com.au or Ph: 0280657337