The 11th season of Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, will offer at least three world premieres, a musical revival, a free musical-in-concert and possibly a fourth new musical.
The 136-seat theatre, which has seen the world premieres of Kander and Ebb's Over and Over, lauded revivals of work by Stephen Sondheim, and new works by resident playwright Norman Allen, will begin the 2000 2001 season in late August with The Rhythm Club, the swing-era musical previously titled Swing Alley, which was previously announced to open in the 1999-2000 season. Scheduling issues with Schaeffer prevented its January 2000 premiere, but it's set for a prior to-Broadway fall run.
Librettist-lyricist Chad Beguelin and composer Matthew Sklar set their show in Hamburg, Germany, in 1938. Three musicians fight for their right to express themselves in time when Nazis where cracking down on Jews, artists and others. The musical will open the season prior to a subsequent regional staging and then Broadway, according to Signature managing director Paul Gamble. The Signature premiere is made possible in part by Up in Heaven, LLC, which will take the show beyond DC.
Signature artistic director Schaeffer (who helmed Broadway's Putting it Together and is mounting London's The Witches of Eastwick) will direct a cast of 22. Broadway designers are expected to be engaged.
Playwright Joe Calarco (R&J) conjures a tragic event in In the Absence of Spring, about survivors of plane crash struggling with sex, death and intimacy over a 24-hour period, five years after the accident. "A catastrophic act sends them spiraling into a night filled with dreams, time travel and ghostly apparitions," according to the announcement. The play contains strong language and nudity. Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and Arthur Laurents' musical, Gypsy, will be revived with Helen Hayes Award winner Donna Migliaccio as Mama Rose. Baayork Lee, a Michael Bennett collaborator and the original "Connie Wong" of A Chorus Line, directs.
Resident playwright Norman Allen's In the Garden, a new work, is described as a modern-day fable of urban sophisticates whose world is rocked by the arrival of a homeless boy who isn't what he seems. The play also contains strong language and nudity, and is part of the Sallee New Century Play Series, which will fund the development of four new plays in five years at Signature.
A musical to be announced ends the season, and there's a chance it may be a world premiere. Signature is committed to premiering the in development Van Gogh-inspired work, The Highest Yellow, by composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa, but no official announcement has been made. LaChiusa penned Marie Christine, Hello Again and The Wild Party.
A free concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Company, with full orchestra, will be performed by Signature regulars at the amphitheatre at Lubber Run Park in Arlington for one week in June 2001.
A week has been added to the run of each show to accommodate demand. Season subscriptions go on sale March 15. Exact dates for shows are not set, but the order of works is reflected in the list here. Single tickets range $22-$30. For information, call (703) 820-9771.
-- By Kenneth Jones