Meet your Assassin: Tod Strike chats about his latest role

We chat with actor Tod Strike about his role in the new production of Assassins, which will commence performances tonight at fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne.

Tod Strike was most recently seen in the 2012-13 tour of South Pacific and the Australian Premiere Production of Love Never Dies where he understudied the roles of Raoul and Phantom, performing both on numerous occasions.

Tod Strike
Tod Strike

What prompted you to audition for this particular production of Assassins?

Actually Tyran Parke, the director, asked me to audition for the role of Zangara. He said “I think you’d like the ‘sing’ of the role” so he sent me out the script to have a look at and once I read it and looked at some music, it was a no brainer. Had to do it.

It was also an added bonus of auditioning for a brand new company that had people behind it that I respected and had wanted to work with for a while. It ticked all the boxes.

Have you worked at fortyfivedownstairs before?

No I haven’t. I’ve only seen one thing at 45 downstairs — a Trevor Ashley show. Of course It was faaaaboulousss! But I remember thinking at the time that this venue would make a great setting for a small niche like musical or cabaret. The intimacy allows you to explore the audience reactions and grab their attention in a way that you obviously can’t in a huge theatre. Agreat space right in the heart of Melbourne.

Have you worked with Tyran before as a director?

I have only worked with Ty as a fellow cast member – South Pacific for The Production Company- but never as a director. This was actually the biggest drawcard for me to do this show. He is honestly one of the most talented, hardest working artists and directors I know and always comes from a place of ‘where the drama is taking us’. The emphasis is heavy on the acting driving the show and what the text is saying first and foremost. This is an area that i wanted to move into as a singer and believe all good musical theatre should stem from. The piece and what it has to say driving everything forward rather than the songs being the most important dramatic aspect. If i had my study time again I would have been an actor who sings rather than a singer who acts. You know what I mean?

Tell us about your character – Zangara

Im playing Giuseppe Zangara. He attempted to shoot Franklin D Roosevelt but couldn’t get a clean shot away so ended up shooting and killing the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who was standing beside Roosevelt at the time. Zangara was sentenced to death by electric chair later on. His big song in the show takes place on the electric chair just before they flick the switch! Nice and intense!

The cast of Watch This’ Assassins

Is this your first Sondheim? What are your feelings on performing in this Tony award winning musical?

It’s my 3rd. I toured way back in the day- I’m very old you know- in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. And I did a pro am production of Into The Woods in Brisbane! I love both of those shows!

Everyone pretty much says that this show is a bucket list Sondheim show for them! I can see why but to be perfectly honest. The music, the book and the premise are all in a word: genius. It doesn’t get much better. Some musical theatre shows’ scripts are not the best pieces of literature so when I read and looked through the lyrics of this show, I finally saw in it something good to act and sing! The premise is also really relevant to today on a number of levels and themes with the use and or misuse of gun laws in the USA and everyone wanting their 15 seconds of fame whether it be famous or infamous. This along also with the inherent feeling that it’s everyone’s right to be happy and free and successful. That society owes them for whatever reason and when that society doesn’t deliver, the measures that people take to be seen and known and get ahead or go to be happy. I mean shooting down a president or a group of people – as with modern day events – is a cry for help and recognition.

“Do you see me know!? Do you???” “You didn’t before but now I have a gun and are going to use it, you do!” They are so lonely and void from the world that they take extreme measures to fit in or make some sense of order. A great look at human psychology and society and the workings of a democratic capitalistic system.

Watch This is a new company on the Australian theatre scene – is it one to watch out for?

OF COURSE it is!!! This company is doing something that not many are doing in Oz and something that has been lacking here in that they are bridging the gap between big and small shows and also setting up a reputable repertory company for Sondheim musicals. They are doing work that doesn’t necessarily get put on on the big stage but great pieces of work. Watch This is providing a viable way of doing professional work when you are not in the long running shows and at the highest level. Watch This – Watch out!!!

Assassins opens tonight at fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne and plays until April 21.

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Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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