By Kenneth Jones
23 Aug 2011
This is a rare case of a resident Equity theatre staging two new musicals in full productions in rep. The Tony Award-honored Signature bills the Signature commission initiative as the American Musical Voices Project: Next Generation "World Premiere Repertory Series." The eight-week schedule plays in the Signature's MAX space. The first performance of Boy Detective is Aug. 25.
Sam Ludwig (Signature's [title of show] and Show Boat) plays Washington Irving's famous literary character Ichabod Crane in The Hollow, which has book by Hunter Foster (better known as a Tony Award-nominated actor) and music and lyrics by Matt Conner.
Heading the cast of The Boy Detective Fails by librettist Joe Meno and composer-lyricist Adam Gwon will be Helen Hayes Award winner Stephen Gregory Smith (Signature's Les Miserables, 110 in the Shade) as the Boy Detective and Anika Larsen (Broadway's Avenue Q and Xanadu on Broadway) as Penny.
Performances of both shows will play every Saturday and Sunday "to provide audience members the opportunity to see both in one day."
The Hollow (Aug. 23-Oct.16) is directed by Signature Theatre's associate artistic director Matthew Gardiner. The Boy Detective Fails (Aug. 25-Oct. 16) is directed by Signature Theatre artistic associate Joe Calarco (Shakespeare's R&J, Signature's Urinetown and Assassins).
The Hollow is billed as "a distinctive reinterpretation" of Washington Irving's classic tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Following Nevermore and Partial Eclipse, this is Conner's third musical production at Signature Theatre. Foster, a Tony-nominated actor (Little Shop of Horrors, plus Urinetown and Million Dollar Quartet), wrote the musical Summer of '42 as well as a new musical Bonnie and Clyde.
The Boy Detective Fails is based on the Joe Meno novel of the same name. According to Signature, "In the twilight of a childhood full of wonder, Billy Argo, 'boy detective,' is brokenhearted to discover his young sister and crime-solving partner, Caroline, has committed suicide. Ten years later, Billy, age 30, returns from an extended stay at St. Vitus' Hospital for the Mentally Ill to discover a world full of unimaginable strangeness."
Songwriter Adam Gwon is known for the musical Ordinary Days, seen Off-Broadway and regionally, and preserved on a cast album.
The creative team working on The Hollow and The Boy Detective Fails includes Helen Hayes Award-winning choreographer Karma Camp (Urinetown and more than 35 productions at Signature); set designer Derek McLane (Tony Award winner for 33 Variations); Helen Hayes Award-winning lighting designer Chris Lee (Kiss of the Spider Woman is among his 17 Signature productions); Hayes-nominated costume designer Kathleen Geldard (The Neverending Story and more than 13 productions at Signature); and sound designer Matt Rowe (more than 20 productions at Signature).
Signature managing director Maggie Boland said in a statement, "With more than $780,000 in direct support having been awarded to musical theatre artists through our American Musical Voices Project to date, Signature is very proud to extend our commitment to these Next Generation composers to include full production of their extraordinary new works."
Major support comes from The Shen Family Foundation, administered by Ted and Mary Jo Shen.
The Signature's 22nd season includes five world premieres. For more information, visit signature-theatre.org.