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Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party

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At a black-tie Gala Benefit on Monday night at the Embassy of Italy, Signature Theatre feted Stephen Sondheim, the greatest living composer/lyricist of American musical theatre, with both music and a new award established in the composer's name. The theatre company, nationally known for its Sondheim productions, inaugurated the ‘Sondheim Award' which will be presented annually to individuals for their career contributions in interpreting, supporting, and collaborating on Mr. Sondheim's musical works.

The composer, who usually avoids the spotlight, thanked the Theatre for the tribute of the award following a musical salute by four outstanding interpreters of his work, Broadway stars Bernadette Peters and Michael Cerveris, and Signature favorites Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble.

More than 320 people attended the dinner and tribute raising $275,000 in support of artistic, education, and outreach programs of Signature Theatre. The Gala exceeded the company's goal and is the most successful fundraising gala in the Theatre's history. The Gala was chaired by Signature Trustee Bonnie Feld and her husband Kenneth, with Honorary Hosts His Excellency and Mrs. Giovanni Castellaneta, Ambassador of Italy to the United States, and The Honorable James Moran and LuAnn Bennett, Congressman from the 8th District of Virginia and his wife.

Eric Schaeffer, Signature's Artistic Director stated, "Signature is so proud to inaugurate the Stephen Sondheim Award with this special celebration in honor of our dear friend Stephen Sondheim. The success of this gala is a sure testament to our collaboration over the past 19 years and the many years to come. It will be an honor to reward an artist each year with this special award. Tonight's celebration featuring Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris, Elesha Gamble and Will Gartshore was a great evening toasting Stephen Sondheim. We look forward to next year when we will name the first recipient of this very special award."

Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for Road Show (2008), earlier produced as Bounce (2003), Passion (1994), Assassins (1991), Into the Woods (1987), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sweeney Todd (1979), Pacific Overtures (1976), The Frogs (1974), A Little Night Music (1973), Follies (1971, revised in London 1987 and in New York 2001), Company (1970), Anyone Can Whistle (1964) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962); as well as lyrics for West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), Do I Hear a Waltz (1965), and additional lyrics for Candide (1973). Side by Side by Sondheim (1976), Marry Me a Little (1981), You're Gonna Love Tomorrow (1983), and Putting it Together (1992, 2000) are anthologies of his work. For film he composed the scores for Stravinsky (1974) and Reds (1981) and songs for Dick Tracy (Academy Award, 1990). He wrote the songs for television's Evening Primrose (1966), co-authored the film The Last of Sheila (1973) and the play Getting Away With Murder (1966), and provided incidental music for the plays The Girls of Summer (1956), Invitation to a March (1961), Twigs (1971), and King Lear (2007). He won Tony® Awards for Best Score of a Musical for Passion, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Follies (1971 version), and Company. All of these shows won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, as did Pacific Overtures and Sunday in the Park with George, the latter also receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1985). Mr. Sondheim is on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981, and in 1983 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1990, he was appointed the first Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University, and in 1993 was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Under the leadership of co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland, 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 25 world premiere productions and is renowned for combining Broadway-quality productions with intimate playing spaces. In addition to the finest talent from the DC metropolitan area and New York, Signature has been a home to such theater luminaries as John Kander and Fred Ebb, Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, as well as Stephen Sondheim. Signature has been nominated for 234 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the professional theater and has been honored with 69 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Musical in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2006, and 2008, and Outstanding Play in 1999.

Photos by Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Signature Theatre Company presentation of The Stephen Sondheim Award at the Inaugural Gala held at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
The Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
The crowd arrives at the Gala

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Signature Theatre Company presentation of The Stephen Sondheim Award at the Inaugural Gala held at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
The Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Signature Theatre Company presentation of The Stephen Sondheim Award at the Inaugural Gala held at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Michael Cerveris

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Michael Cerveris

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Michael Cerveris

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Michael Cerveris

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eleasha Gamble

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Eric Schaeffer

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters and Michael Cerveris

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Michael Cerveris

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim and Eric Schaeffer

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer, Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer, Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim signs a note

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer, Eleasha Gamble, Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer, Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
A toast to Stephen Sondheim!

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Eric Schaeffer, Bernadette Peters and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris and Stephen Sondheim

Photo Coverage Exclusive: Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award Gala Reception Party
Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris and Stephen Sondheim, BRAVO Stephen!

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Walter McBride As a 14 year old youth, Walter was transfixed by his first Broadway Show, the original production of 'GREASE'. His Journey to celebrity photojournalism began that fateful night. Meeting, photographing and getting to know the cast inspired him to spend his professional life doing what he loved. Walter moved to Manhattan and for a leading role as a Photographer & Photo Researcher. Currently headlining in New Jersey with his partner Richard and family members Dali (Jack Russell) & Gala (Schnoodle). Recently he made his Broadway debut sharing the stage with Hugh Jackman in 'Hugh Jackman on Broadway' as well as receiving the Actors' Equity Association Gypsy Spirit Award. Walter McBride Photography is syndicated worldwide by Corbis/AP.


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