DC's Signature Theatre Will Premiere LaChiusa's Giant in 2009; Ace and Whistle Also on Schedule

News   DC's Signature Theatre Will Premiere LaChiusa's Giant in 2009; Ace and Whistle Also on Schedule Signature Theatre Company's 2008-09 season in Arlington, VA, will include the world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson's new musical, Giant, based on the Edna Ferber novel about Texas ranch and oil folk.
Michael John LaChiusa
Michael John LaChiusa Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Artistic director Eric Schaeffer will direct the 2009 production, which has music and lyrics by five-time Tony Award nominee LaChiusa (The Wild Party, Marie Christine). Pearson penned the book to the Broadway musical Baby.

A musical of Ferber's "Show Boat" made huge waves in American musical theatre when Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern re-imagined it in 1927. Critics and producers are sure to have their eye on the new musical, Giant. The title is most widely known for its movie version starring Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.

According to Signature, "Epic in vision and scope, swept with passion and violence, touched by humor and sorrow, Giant is the powerful story of a Texas rancher and his Virginia-born wife as they face increasing challenges in their marriage and family in an ever-changing American landscape."

The April 28-May 31, 2009, production in The MAX space is the first Signature production resulting from the American Musical Voices Project, a new works program sponsored by The Shen Family Foundation. The project — fed by a $1 million grant from the foundation — will also give life to future new works by Ricky Ian Gordon and Joseph Thalken, each directed by Schaeffer in the coming seasons.

Giant is also the recipient of The Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays. The Schaeffer-directed production of the musical, Ace, originally planned as a Broadway-aimed commercial production to bow at the National Theatre this summer, is now a not-for-profit Signature staging, launching the 19th season Aug. 26-Sept. 28.

Poster art for Ace

(The Broadway producer, Tom Smedes, is still attached and plans to shepherd it to a commercial life.) Seen in earlier regional productions, the "musical adventure" Ace, with book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker and music by Oberacker, is set in the American heartland of the 1950s. It's "the epic story of one boy's journey to come to terms with his past, find his place in the present, and unlock his future," according to Signature. "When 10-year-old Danny Lucas receives a toy plane as an unexpected gift from his foster parents, a parallel world of dreamtime adventures begins to unfold. With an ace fighter as his guide, Danny is transported back in time — flying into the gathering storm over Europe during aerial dogfights of WWI and soaring with the daring Tiger squadrons of WWII in the skies above Southeast Asia. A tale of triumph, transcendence, humor, and heart as seen through the prism of a child's eyes, Ace magically explores the heroic lives and unforeseen legacies of the men and women of our greatest generations."

The Signature season runs Aug. 26, 2008-May 31, 2009 and features five productions as well as the special concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents' Anyone Can Whistle.

The season will also boast the Washington debut of the The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh, directed by Jeremy Skidmore and featuring John Lescault, Joe Isenberg and Casie Platt (Sept. 23-Nov. 9, 2008 in The ARK); two-time Helen Hayes Award winner Holly Twyford in the Washington premiere of The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane, directed by Michael Baron (Jan. 13-March 1, 2009 in The ARK); the Washington premiere of the musical See What I Wanna See, "a musical about lust, greed, murder, faith, and redemption," with words and music by Michael John LaChiusa, based on short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa as translated by Takashi Kojima, directed by Matthew Gardiner (April 7-May 24, 2009 in The ARK); and the Second Annual Great American Musicals Concert, Anyone Can Whistle, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, directed by Eric Schaeffer (Oct. 6 at Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center).

Also on the slate are cabaret performances, including LaChiusa's Ladies, "a special evening of composer Michael John LaChiusa's songs written from the perspective of some of musical theatre's most interesting, complex women." It will be performed March 18-21, 2009, in The ARK.

For more information visit www.signature-theatre.org.

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Signature is in the midst of its three-show Kander and Ebb Festival, featuring full stagings of Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Visit and The Happy Time.