Signature to Welcome New Gordon Musical, Show Boat, [title of show], Skinner in 2009-10

News   Signature to Welcome New Gordon Musical, Show Boat, [title of show], Skinner in 2009-10
Signature Theatre, the Arlington, VA, company known for reinventing classic musicals in its intimate venues will tackle the grandfather of all American musicals in its just-announced 2009-10 season: the groundbreaking Show Boat.
Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell and Hunter Bell (seated) in [title of show]
Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell and Hunter Bell (seated) in [title of show] Photo by Carol Rosegg

The 1927 musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II redefined the limits of the musical play, integrating song and story like never before and daring to introduce serious subject matter into the "musical comedy" form. The large show, which covers 40 years of story, will be "re-envisioned in a bold new production, with a new overture and orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick."

Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer (who will direct Show Boat) announced the 20th anniversary season slate on March 18.

The season will also include the world premiere of the autobiographical musical Sycamore Trees by Ricky Ian Gordon (and directed by Tina Landau) through its American Musical Voices Project. Also expect Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner in Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde; Doug Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife starring Helen Hayes Award winner Andrew Long; a new environmental production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd; and the Washington, DC, premiere of Broadway's [title of show].

Signature's popular cabaret evenings throughout the season will feature highlights of the theatre's 20 years of musical theatre offerings.

The 20th Anniversary season runs from Aug. 11, 2009 through June 27, 2010. Mainstage season subscriptions are now on sale. For more information call the Signature box office at (703) 820-9771 or visit Here's Signature Theatre's 20th Season at a glance:

Dirty Blonde
A Play with Music by Claudia Shear
Directed by Signature Artistic Associate Jeremy Skidmore
Aug. 11-Oct. 4, 2009 in the ARK

"A funny, bawdy New York hit penned by Claudia Shear, Signature's production of Dirty Blonde will star Tony Award nominee and Signature favorite Emily Skinner in the two roles she was born to play — cinematic legend Mae West and West's most fixated fan, Jo."

Show Boat
Music by Jerome Kern
Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the novel "Show Boat" by Edna Ferber
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Nov. 10, 2009-Jan. 17, 2010 in the MAX

"Artistic director Eric Schaeffer reinvents the classic 1927 American musical Show Boat in an intimate new staging for our times. The production will feature new orchestrations — and a new overture — by the renowned Jonathan Tunick, winner of all four show business awards: the Tony, Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy. Spanning the years 1880 to 1927, this lyrical masterpiece concerns the lives, loves, and heartbreaks of three generations of show folk on the Mississippi. Show Boat is a sweeping tale of enduring love and devastating hatred, illuminating through unforgettable music the cruelty of prejudice – and the beauty of romance."

I Am My Own Wife
By Doug Wright
Starring Helen Hayes Award winner Andrew Long
Directed by Alan Paul
Jan. 12–March 7, 2010 in the ARK

"Inspired by interviews conducted by the playwright over several years, I Am My Own Wife tells the fascinating real-life story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite who managed to survive both Nazi rule and the repressive East German Communist regime. Von Mahlsdorf created a safe-space in the bowels of her antiques museum for East Berlin’s 'undesirables' — homosexuals, cross-dressers and prostitutes. But in order to survive, she sacrificed her ideals, becoming an informer for the East German secret police, the Stasi. In this one-man show, the award-winning Andrew Long (My Fair Lady and Saving Aimee) portrays Charlotte's complexity — a non-conformist shrouded in an image of conformity, a protector of minorities who ultimately becomes their betrayer. I Am My Own Wife was the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize and the 2004 Tony Award for Best Play."

Sweeney Todd
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Based on the play by Christopher Bond
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Feb. 9-April 4, 2010 in the MAX

"The first musical ever presented at Signature, Sweeney Todd gets a brand new environmental staging in the MAX Theatre as part of the 20th anniversary season. Since that first production, Sondheim has become Signature's signature composer. And Sweeney Todd is Sondheim's masterpiece — with all its gothic gore, lush songs, and romantic melodrama. It's a grand musical that has all the stuff of a classic horror story — betrayal, revenge, madness, and murder. The 'meat' pies will be baking and the blood will be flowing in this thriller musical comedy featuring a celebrated cast of Signature Theatre favorites."

[title of show]
Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Directed by Matthew Gardiner
March 30–June 20, 2010 in the ARK

"[title of show] puts the audience right in the middle of the creative process — dizzy, unpredictable and uproarious. When faced with a festival's submission deadline for their new musical, Jeff and Hunter can't decide what to write about. With friends Susan and Heidi (and Larry on the piano), they come up with a solution — write about what to write about. Helen Hayes Award-winner Matthew Gardiner directs this love letter to the musical theatre — a uniquely American art form — and to the joy of collaboration."

Sycamore Trees
By Ricky Ian Gordon
Directed by Tina Landau
May 18-June 20, 2010 in the MAX
Sponsored by The Shen Family Foundation

"Composer Ricky Ian Gordon is the second recipient of the American Musical Voices Project Award to present a new work of musical theatre on Signature's stage. Sycamore Trees is the moving story of his family's struggles and their reliance on each other through good and bad. The composer says, 'When my father came home from World War II in 1945, my family lived in a crowded tenement in the Bronx, poor and with bed bugs. Then my parents got the idea to move to the suburbs where the dream of life flowering in a clean and spacious environment promised to be the answer. It wasn't. This is the story of a family and what happened to them … and music is its heartbeat and inner life.'" Gordon is the composer of the opera The Grapes of Wrath, hailed for its merging of Broadway and opera. Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble Member and acclaimed Chicago director Tina Landau (Iphigenia 2.0, The Trojan Women) comes to the Washington area to direct this world premiere musical.

Cabaret Series: Signature's 20 years of musical theatre are saluted in a series of four cabaret evenings throughout the season.

Signature Sings: 1989-1994 Oct. 13–18
Select songs performed from the musical productions from 1989-1994 including Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Company, Wings – The Musical and Into the Woods.

Signature Sings: 1995-1999 Nov. 17–22
Select songs performed from the musical productions from 1995-1999 including First Lady Suite, Cabaret, A Grand Night for Singing, Passion, The Rink, Sunday in the Park With George, Working, The Fix, A Little Night Music, Over and Over and Tell Me on a Sunday.

Signature Sings: 2000-2004 March 9–14, 2010
Select songs performed from the musical productions from 2000-2004 including Floyd Collins, Gypsy, Putting it Together, Grand Hotel, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, 110 in the Shade, Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Allegro, Elegies: A Song Cycle and The Highest Yellow.

Signature Sings: 2005-2009 June 22–27, 2010
Select songs performed from the musical productions from 2005-2009 including Pacific Overtures, Urinetown, Nevermore, My Fair Lady, Saving Aimee, The Witches of Eastwick, Merrily We Roll Along, Glory Days, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Happy Time, The Visit, Ace, Les Misérables and Giant.

Christmas Cabaret Dec. 15–20
Following the past seasons' smash Christmas cabarets, this year Signature offers audiences the chance to enjoy the seasonal favorites with this all-male holiday cabaret — Swingin' Santas.


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 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, and the company's signature, Stephen Sondheim. Signature has been nominated for 276 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the professional theater 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.

Signature Theatre is supported by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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