Laura Benanti, Howard McGillin and More Sing the Praises of Patti LuPone in DC Sondheim Award Gala April 16

By Kenneth Jones
April 16, 2012

Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, Howard McGillin, Joseph Thalken and Natascia Diaz are among performers who'll appear at the April 16 presentation of Signature Theatre's third Stephen Sondheim Award to Tony winner Patti LuPone.



The black-tie gala benefit is held at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC. The Sondheim Award Gala benefits Signature Theatre's artistic, education and community programs. The Arlington, VA, company won the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2009.

Signature Theatre's artistic director Eric Schaeffer said in a statement, "With her wonderful performances in Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Company, Passion and more — [Patti LuPone] has had an amazing connection to Steve's words and music. We look forward to saluting Patti and her extraordinary talents."

Composer-lyricist Sondheim stated, "There are few performers who can play both Mrs. Lovett and Fosca, Evita and Reno Sweeney, Nancy in Oliver! and Cora Hoover Hooper in Anyone Can Whistle, and still create roles for David Mamet. In fact, there's only one. Versatility of such a high caliber is rare indeed, and therefore it couldn’t be more appropriate that the recipient of this year’s Signature Theatre Sondheim Award is going to the best tuba player on Broadway: Patti LuPone."

LuPone worked with Benanti in Broadway's Gypsy (winning a Tony as Louise) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. McGillin starred in Anything Goes with LuPone on Broadway. Natascia Diaz starred in Kiss of the Spider Woman at Signature and is a Helen Hayes Award winner for Rooms at MetroStage. Composer/arranger/musical director Joseph Thalken was commissioned as part of Signature's American Musical Voices Project (he penned And the Curtain Rises at Signature).

After training with the first class of the Drama Division of New York's Juilliard School, LuPone began her career in 1972 as a founding member of John Houseman's The Acting Company. Her select Broadway credits include Three Sisters, Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown (Tony nomination), Gypsy (Best Actress Tony Award), Sweeney Todd (Tony nomination), Noises Off, The Old Neighborhood, An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, Master Class, Patti LuPone On Broadway, Evita (Best Actress Tony), The Robber Bridegroom, Oliver! and Working.

She is the author of the New York Times best-selling autobiography, "Patti LuPone: A Memoir." Read more about LuPone in the Playbill Vault.

Receiving the Young Artist Citation this year at the gala is music director Gabriel Mangiante, who has worked on Signature's productions of Brother Russia, The Hollow, The Boy Detective Fails, Side by Side by Sondheim, among many others.

In 2009, Signature Theatre inaugurated The Stephen Sondheim Award in recognition of the importance of Sondheim's work to Signature and to theater in general. In April 2010, the first Award was given to stage, screen and television actress Angela Lansbury. Last year, Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters was the recipient. The Award is given on a yearly basis to an individual for his or her career contributions to interpreting, supporting, and collaborating on Stephen Sondheim’s music works. To date, Signature has presented 22 Stephen Sondheim productions, more than any other theater in the United States. In 2002, Signature's Eric Schaeffer was the artistic director of The Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center.

For more information about sponsorship and tickets contact Mari Chin, development coordinator at (571) 527-1828 or events@signature-theatre.org.