Signature will salute Sondheim at a black-tie celebration April 27, 2009, in Washington, DC. The evening will include a musical tribute, dinner and dancing — and inaugurate an annual honor to be known in future years as The Sondheim Award. The award will be presented to individuals for "their career contributions to interpreting, supporting, and collaborating on Sondheim's musical works."
Schaeffer announced the gala and creation of the award at Signature's second Great American Musicals in Concert benefit performance of Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle on Oct. 6.
Proceeds from the April event will benefit the non-profit Signature Theatre.
"As Signature prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary season, we have decided that it is very fitting and appropriate to honor Stephen Sondheim, the composer whose musicals mean so much to us," stated Schaeffer. "Through his long collaboration with our company and the 18 Sondheim productions we have presented over the years, Steve's works have come to be our 'signature.' Steve has been a great friend to Signature over the past two decades and we look forward to doing many more presentations of his musicals in the future. I'm thrilled that Steve has agreed to accept this tribute and inaugurate 'The Sondheim Award.'"
Sondheim said in a statement, "When Signature approached me about creating an award in my name, I was simultaneously flattered, honored and embarrassed — flattered that Signature should think so highly of me, honored because I think so highly of Signature, and embarrassed because I'm pathetically neurotic about being in the spotlight. The fact is that Signature has done me proud over the years, not merely in the frequency with which they have produced musicals I worked on but because the quality of the productions has been so consistently high and inventive. I look forward to being embarrassed when I inaugurate the award this spring." For information on sponsorship for The Sondheim Gala, ranging from $2,500 to $50,000, visit www.signature-theatre.org or contact Signature Theatre at (571) 527-1828.
Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for 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).
Under the leadership of co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer and managing director Maggie Boland, Signature is a non-profit professional theatre 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 theatre 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 theatre and has been honored with 59 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Musical in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2005, and 2006, and Outstanding Play in 1999.