George Hearn to Star w/ Rivera in THE VISIT at Signature

eric schaeffer, artistic director of Signature Theatre, announced today that two-time Tony winner George Hearn will join another two-time Tony winner Chita Rivera for Kander & Ebb's musical The Visit - a highlight of Signature Theatre's national Kander & Ebb Celebration in the spring of 2008. With Signature's status as one of America's leading forces in innovative musical theater, its pairing of Rivera and Hearn in The Visit marks the first time that a regional Washington, DC area theater has ever cast two double-Tony winners in one production.

In addition to The Visit, the four-month Kander & Ebb festival from March - June 2008 will feature the Tony- Award winning musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, the rarely produced work The Happy Time, and the Tony-nominated performer Karen Akers in her critically-acclaimed new cabaret show First You Dream: The Songs of Kander & Ebb. Best known for their musicals Cabaret and Chicago, Kander and Ebb were the longest-running songwriting partnership in Broadway musical history, working together from 1965 until Ebb's death in 2004. Subscriptions are still available to the Kander & Ebb Celebration by calling Signature Theatre's Box Office at 703-820-9771 or by visiting www.signature-theatre.org.

The Visit is the story of a wealthy and vengeful old woman, Claire Zachanassian, and her desire for both truth and blood. Zachanassian had been driven from her hometown in disgrace when she was 17, betrayed by her lover. Several decades and seven husbands later, she has become the richest woman in the world, yet her hometown has fallen on hard times. When Zachanassian returns with an offer to save the town, salvation comes with an outrageous price tag. Directed by Frank Galati, and choreographed by Ann Reinking, this new musical has a book by Terrence McNally, based on one of the great plays of the 20th century, The Visit by Friedrich Drrenmatt. It will be performed in Signature's MAX Theatre, a new space recently described by The New York Times as "recall[ing] the beloved Cottesloe at the National Theater in London." Performances are May 13 - June 22, 2008 with some dates already sold out. The Visit had its world premiere in 2001 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre and the creative team remains intact for the Signature Theatre production.

George Hearn is a Tony Award-winning American actor and singer, primarily in Broadway musical theater, and particularly known for his portrayal of the title character of the Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Hearn studied philosophy at Southwestern University before he embarked on a career in the theater, training for the stage with legendary actress turned acting coach Irene Dailey.

Most of Hearn's early performances were in traditional productions at the New York Shakespeare Festival and Lincoln Center where he first garnered notice as John Dickinson in the acclaimed 1969 musical 1776, and as Liv Ullmann's leading man in the musical version of I Remember Mama (1979). Later that year he replaced Len Cariou in Sweeney Todd opposite Dorothy Loudon. Hearn and the show's original star, Angela Lansbury, later headed the show's touring company, then reprised their roles for a Showtime production of the musical, which won him an Emmy Award for his portrayal.

Other notable Broadway credits include A Time for Singing, The Changing Room, Hamlet, A Doll's Life, La Cage aux Folles, Meet Me in St. Louis, Sunset Boulevard, The Diary of Anne Frank, Putting It Together, and Wicked.

Hearn's Tony Award nominations and wins are 1980 Best Featured Actor in a Play (Watch on the Rhine, nominee); 1983 Best Actor in a Musical (A Doll's Life, nominee); 1984 Best Actor in a Musical (La Cage aux Folles, winner); 1995 Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Sunset Boulevard, winner); and 2000 Best Actor in a Musical (Putting It Together, nominee).

His recordings include A Stephen Sondheim Evening (1983 Concert Cast),Follies in Concert (1985 Live Performance), I Remember Mama (1985 Studio Cast), Mack & Mabel (1988 London Concert Cast), Sweeney Todd Live at the New York Philharmonic, and Sunset Boulevard (1994 Los Angeles Cast, and later, the Broadway Cast Recording).

His film credits include The Silence (1975), Sea Marks (1976), Sanctuary of Fear (1979), A Piano for Mrs. Cimino (1982), Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1984), See You in the Morning (1989), Fire in the Dark (1991), Sneakers (1992), The Vanishing (1993), The Pagemaster (1994), Annie - A Royal Adventure! (1995), All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996), The Devil's Own (1997), Barney's Great Adventure (1998), Sarah Plain and Tall: Winter's End (1999), Sweeney Todd in Concert (2001), and Flags of Our Fathers (2006).

Chita Rivera is a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical actress dancer, and singer best known for her musical theater roles. Rivera was born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, D.C. to a Puerto Rican father who played clarinet and saxophone for the Navy band and a mother of Scottish and Italian descent. Rivera was seven years old when her mother became a widow and went to work for The Pentagon. Rivera's mother enrolled her in the Jones- Hayward School of Ballet and later, when she was 15, a teacher from George Balanchine's School of American Ballet visited their studio and Rivera was one of two students picked to audition in New York City. Accepted as a scholarship student, she had among her new teachers Allegra Kent and Maria Tallchief. (Rivera credits her ballet instructors, as well as Leonard Bernstein and Gwen Verdon, her co-star in Chicago, as being the people from whom she learned most from in her career).

In 1952, Rivera accompanied a friend to an audition for a Broadway production of Call Me Madam and ended up winning the role herself. She followed this by landing roles in other Broadway productions such as Guys and Dolls and Can-Can. In 1957, she was cast in the role which was destined to make her a Broadway star, the firebrand Anita in West Side Story. Rivera starred in a national tour of Can-Can and played the role of Nicky in the film adaptation of Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine.

On December 1, 1957, Rivera married dancer Tony Mordente. Her performance was so important for the success of the show that the London production of West Side Story was postponed until she gave birth to the couple's daughter Lisa. In 1963, Rivera was cast opposite Alfred Drake in Zenda.

In 1986, Rivera was in a severe accident when her car collided with a taxi on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Injuries sustained included the breaking of her left leg in twelve places, requiring eighteen screws and two braces to mend. After rehabilitation, Rivera continued to perform on stage.

Rivera received two Tony Awards (for The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman) and seven additional nominations. She was the first Hispanic woman to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award.

In 2003, Rivera returned to Broadway in the revival of Nine as Liliane La Fleur, and received her eighth career Tony Award nomination (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and fourth Drama Desk Award nomination (Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical). She later appeared on the revival's cast album.Will & Grace, and in December of that year, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, a retrospective of her career, opened on Broadway. She received yet another Tony nomination for her self-portrayal. Additional Broadway credits include Mr. Wonderful, Bye Bye Birdie, Bajour, Born Yesterday, The Rose Tattoo, Call Me Madam, Threepenny Opera, Sweet Charity, Kiss Me, Kate, Bring Back Birdie, Nine the Musical , and Merlin: The Magical Musical.

ABOUT SIGNATURE

Signature is a non-profit professional theater company dedicated to producing contemporary musicals and plays, reinventing classic musicals, and developing new work. To date, Signature has presented over 20 world premiere productions and commissions and is renowned for combining Broadway-quality productions with an intimate playing space, and using live orchestras with unamplified performers. In addition to the finest talent from the DC metropolitan area and New York, Signature has been a home to such theater luminaries as Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, John Kander and Fred Ebb, and, of course, Stephen Sondheim, the company's signature.

Under Co-Founder and Artistic Director eric schaeffer, Signature has been nominated for 216 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the professional theater and has been honored with 54 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Musical in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2005, and 2006, and Outstanding Play in 1999.

 

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