Works by Hunter Foster, Adam Gwon, et al. Featured in Signature's 2011-12 Season!
Signature Theatre's 22nd season kicks off by making musical theatre history with its American Musical Voices Project: Next Generation "World Premiere Repertory Series" - the first time in the history of the American theatre that two world premiere musicals will be presented in rotating repertory, in full production. The eight-week series, beginning previews on August 23rd, will produce The Hollow (book by Hunter Foster; music and lyrics by Matt Conner), to be directed by Signature Theatre's Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner; and The Boy Detective Fails (book by Joe Meno; music and lyrics by Adam Gwon), directed by Signature Theatre Artistic Associate Joe Calarco. Both musicals have been commissioned by Signature Theatre as part of its groundbreaking American Musical Voices Project: The Next Generation.
"It is essential for Signature to continue to break new ground in the production of new musicals for the American theatre," Signature's Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer said. "Producing this Repertory Series is a significant step forward in the work we are doing with some of the best writers working in musical theater today. It is a tremendous challenge that is both exciting and important for the future of the American musical."
Signature Theatre has assembled an award-winning design team to work on The Hollow and The Boy Detective Fails, which includes choreography by Helen Hayes Award-winner Karma Camp (Urinetown and more than 35 productions at Signature); set designs by Derek McLane (Tony Award®-winner, 33 Variations); lighting by Helen Hayes Award-winner Chris Lee (Kiss of the Spider Woman, among his 17 Signature Productions); costume design by Helen Hayes Award-nominee Kathleen Geldard (The Neverending Story; 13+ productions at Signature) and sound design by Matt Rowe (20+ productions at Signature). Each production will run in rotating repertory, with performances of both shows on every Saturday and Sunday to provide audience members the opportunity to see both in one day.
Heading the cast for The Boy Detective Fails will be Helen Hayes Award-winner Stephen Gregory Smith (Les Miserables, 110 in the Shade at Signature) as the Boy Detective and Anika Larsen (Avenue Q and Xanadu on Broadway) as Penny. Sam Ludwig (Signature's [title of show] and Show Boat) will be playing the infamous Ichabod Crane in The Hollow opposite Whitney Bashor as Katrina. The Repertory cast starring in both musicals includes Evan Casey, Sherri Edelen, James Gardiner, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Margo Seibert, Thomas Adrian Simpson, Russell Sunday, and Harry A. Winter.
"With our extensive history of developing new musicals, we are proud that this first-time repertory will have its home at Signature," Schaeffer continued. "This is sure to be a major theatrical event in Washington this Fall." Managing Director Maggie Boland added, "With more than $780,000 in direct support having been awarded to musical theater artists through our American Musical Voices Project to date, Signature is very proud to extend our commitment to these Next Generation composers to include full production of their extraordinary new works."
The Hollow is a distinctive reinterpretation of Washington Irving's classic tale Sleepy Hollow as created by Hunter Foster and Matt Conner. Following Nevermore and Partial Eclipse, this is Conner's third musical composition production at Signature Theatre. "I am so thrilled and honored to be a part of this historical project," said Conner. "New works come to life thanks to the leadership and vision of Eric Schaeffer along with the generous support of Ted and Mary Jo Shen. Their dedication to the theatre gives rise to opportunities for works that otherwise may be left on a shelf." Foster recently wrote Summer of '42 as well as the new musical Bonnie and Clyde; among his many performing credits is the role of Molina in Signature's production of Kiss of the Spiderwoman.
The Boy Detective Fails is based on the popular Joe Meno novel of the same name. In the twilight of a childhood full of wonder, Billy Argo, "boy detective," is brokenhearted to discover his young sister and crime-solving partner, Caroline, has committed suicide. Ten years later, Billy, age thirty, returns from an extended stay at St. Vitus' Hospital for the Mentally Ill to discover a world full of unimaginable strangeness. The score is by Adam Gwon, who most recently premiered Ordinary Days for Roundabout Theatre Company.
Signature Theatre's American Musical Voices Project is the largest single musical theater
commissioning and producing initiative of any U.S. theater. Founded in May 2006 and funded by The Shen Family Foundation, the AMVP demonstrates Signature's commitment to producing full productions of world premiere Musical Theatre Works. Through the AMVP, Musical Theater Composer Grants have been awarded to Ricky Ian Gordon, Michael John LaChiusa, Joseph Thalken, Adam Guettel and Jeanine Tesori. Each of the grants includes a commission to create a new full-length musical, with a commitment for full production as part of Signature Theatre's mainstage season. In April 2009, Giant by Michael John LaChiusa received its world premiere at Signature Theatre. Ricky Ian Gordon's Sycamore Trees premiered in May 2010, and Joseph Thalken's musical, And the Curtain Rises premiered in March 2011.
As part of the AMVP, Musical Theater Leadership Awards have been made to four individuals
in recognition of their extraordinary influence on and contribution to the advancement of new musical theater, orchestrator Bruce Coughlin, composer Adam Guettel, singer/actress Audra McDonald, and director/musical director/orchestrator Ted Sperling.
In June 2008, the AMVP added The Next Generation program. That year, emerging composers Matt Conner, Adam Gwon, & Gabriel Kahane each received a commission to write new musicals for Signature Theatre and honorees Peter Foley and Marisa Michelson were given grants for the development of their musical ideas. In July 2009, the Theatre launched "21/24 Signature Lab," three weeks of rehearsal & performances of new works by The Next Generation composers. Also announced as part of The Next Generation segment of the AMVP were two additional musical commissions awarded to Peter Foley and Marisa Michelson, as well as honoree grants given to Chris Miller and Scott Davenport Richards for the development of future musical ideas. In 2010, Miller and Richards were awarded commissions through The Next Generation program, and Joshua Schmidt and Joshua Rosenblum were named honorees.
Recipient of the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award®, Signature Theatre is a non-profit professional theater company in Arlington, Virginia dedicated to producing contemporary musicals and plays, reinventing classic musicals, and developing new work. Under the leadership of co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland, Signature has presented 32 world premiere productions and is renowned for combining Broadway-quality productions with intimate playing spaces.
In addition to hosting the finest talent from the DC metropolitan area and New York, Signature has been home to such theatre luminaries as Chita Rivera, George Hearn, Hunter Foster, Emily Skinner, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, and the company's signature composer, Stephen Sondheim. Since its founding in 1989, Signature has won 72 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the Washington, DC region's professional theater and has been honored with 293 nominations.
Signature is partially supported by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts and by a gift from Arlington County through the Arlington Commission for the Arts and the Cultural Affairs Division of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos