With book by Michael Slade (And a Child Shall Lead, ten shows by Theatreworks/USA), lyrics by Mark Campbell (Songs From an Unmade Bed) and music by Joseph Thalken (Was, Harold & Maude), the show is inspired by the true story of the 19th-century entertainment The Black Crook, created from the unusual merging of two forms. The result, historians tell us, was American musical theatre.
Performances play to April 10 at Signature's MAX Theatre. Under the direction of Tony Award nominee Kristin Hanggi (Broadway's Rock of Ages, Off-Broadway's bare), the cast includes Erik Altemus, Anna Kate Bocknek, Kristen Calgaro, Kevin Carolan, Alma Cuervo, Nick Dalton, Suzanne Darling, Erick Devine, William Diggle, Greer Gisy, Laura Keller, Rachel Schur, Jennifer Smith, Brian Sutherland, Sean Thompson and Rebecca Watson.
And the Curtain Rises, according to Signature, "loosely re-imagines the theatrical bedlam surrounding the creation of the first American musical. Set in 1866, this classic backstage tale follows novice producer William Wheatley [played by Nick Dalton] as he finds his production in shambles: bruised egos, secret plots, romance, some skimpy costumes, an uncompromising author, and a cast on the verge of revolt. All is complicated when a French ballet troupe is forced to seek refuge in his theatre after a fire erupts in an adjacent theatre. Rather than throw in the towel and count his losses, Wheatley decides to take control and turn lemons into lemonade. Filled with outrageous characters and rich melodies, and reveling in the chaos and camaraderie of the theatre, And the Curtain Rises is a lovely valentine to an unique American art form."
The musical, formerly called Wheatley's Folly, is the third production presented as part of Signature's American Musical Voices Project, the largest commissioning program for new musicals in the country. The program spawned Michael John LaChiusa's Giant in 2009 and Ricky Ian Gordon's Sycamore Trees in 2010.
Rounding out the creative team are music director/conductor Boko Suzuki, choreographer Josh Walden, set designer Beowulf Boritt, costume designer Kathleen Geldard, lighting designer Colin K. Bills and sound designer Matt Rowe. Composer Joseph Thalken said in a statement, "We like to think of this show as a love letter to the crazy business of musical theater. I'm a big history buff, and have long been intrigued by the legend of how the musical was born. It fascinates me how such a major industry was formed essentially by accident. It was serendipity."
Tickets range from $59-$85 and are available by calling Ticketmaster at (703) 573-SEAT (7328) or visiting www.signature-theatre.org.