Three recipients of the 29th Annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre have been named. The judges declared a tie in the most promising musical theatre lyricist category between Sarah Hammond and Shaina Taub, while the Kleban Prize for the most promising musical theatre librettist has been awarded to Charlie Sohne.
The 2019 prizes, bestowed not just for an artist's previous achievements, but for the promise of creativity to come, will be presented February 4 in a private ceremony hosted by ASCAP and BMI at ASCAP.
This year's judges were Tony-nominated actor Alison Fraser (The Secret Garden; Romance, Romance), Tony-nominated composer-lyricist Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody, Bring It On The Musical), and the artistic director of the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, Tony-nominated director Eric Schaeffer (Follies).
The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of A Chorus Line. Kleban's will made provisions for annual prizes, which in recent years have totaled $100,000 each, payable over two years, to be given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American Musical Theatre.
“For nearly three decades, The Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of the theatre's most distinctive honors,” said Tony winner Richard Maltby Jr, president of the Kleban Foundation, in a statement. “Ed Kleban recognized that theatrical wordsmiths had the hardest time supporting themselves while honing their craft, and so the Kleban Awards are specifically for librettists and lyricists. While other theatre awards recognize the best of the past season, The Kleban Prize celebrates work yet to be done. With a uniquely generous endowment, The Kleban Prize identifies, celebrates and supports the most promising writing talent in the theatre, just when emerging writers need help the most. The Kleban Foundation is proud to carry Ed Kleban's enlightened legacy into the 21st century, and to continue fostering the work of new writers, as well as supporting writers who have already begun to establish themselves. Kleban Prize winners are the artists who are going to define the art form for years to come.”
Hammond is a playwright and musical theatre writer. She wrote the book for the musical String and the book and lyrics for Theatreworks USA's Pete the Cat. Her plays include Green Girl, House on Stilts, Kudzu, and others. Current projects are Wind-Up Girl (Ars Nova Uncharted; St. Louis Rep's Ignite Festival), a new musical about René Descartes, and Jenny Talks to Aliens (EST/Sloan commission).
Taub is a Vermont-raised, Brooklyn-based songwriter and performer. She starred in her musical adaptations of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and As You Like It at the Public Theater. She's currently writing a musical about Alice Paul and the American women's suffrage movement, and she's writing lyrics for the upcoming Broadway musical of The Devil Wears Prada, with music by Sir Elton John. She wrote the score for and co-starred in Bill Irwin and David Shiner's Old Hats, directed by Tina Landau at the Signature Theatre and A.C.T. She earned a Lucille Lortel Award nomination as Mary in the Off-Broadway run of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, and appeared in the original cast and on the cast album of Hadestown at New York Theatre Workshop.
Sohne and Tim Rosser's The Boy Who Danced on Air (NAMT 2013) had its world premiere at The Diversionary Theatre and its Off-Broadway premiere at the Abingdon Theatre. The show's cast album was released by Broadway Records, featuring a bonus track performed by India.Arie. Their pilot, Truth Slash Fiction (directed by Daniel Schloss), won best comedy at SeriesFest and ITVFest, and their song cycle, With The Right Music, made its premiere with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra in February 2018. They're currently working on a musical adaptation of the novel Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, and developing a new show commissioned by New York City Children's Theater, Talk To Me.