Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Celebrating Signature's Sondheim Award Gala

Sondheim. Signature's signature. Since 1991 Signature has produced at least one Sondheim musical as part of their season. This past Monday evening marked the fourth annual Sondheim Gala, an event where Signature Theatre presents the Stephen Sondheim Award to "an individual for his or her career contributions to interpreting, supporting, and collaborating on Stephen Sondheim’s music works." This year's award honored 21-time Tony Award-Winning director Harold Prince. In honor of this incredible event, the award and these two incredible men, we have a few videos and pictures below celebrating their numerous collaborations.

In 1979 Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd hit the stage with direction by Harold "Hal" Prince. The musical took the Tony Awards by storm, garnering nine nominations and eight wins, including best direction for Prince and best original score for Sondheim.

Be sure to check out this clip from Signature's 20th Anniversary production of Sweeney Todd as well!

While Sweeney Todd may be one of Sondheim and Prince's better known collaborations, it was neither the first nor the last. Together they worked on such shows as Follies, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along and Company, many of which have enjoyed productions at Signature Theatre.

Of the opportunity to present Prince with the award, Sondheim said, “After nine major collaborations over a period of 55 years and a friendship that is even longer, it seems somewhat redundant, not to say bizarre, that I should be giving an award in my name to Harold Prince. But any award that acknowledges Hal’s skills, inventions, and generosity is an award worth giving. His achievements range well beyond his contributions as a director and a producer.”

Check out the video below to see Sondheim and Prince at work on Company:

Signature Theatre's upcoming production of Company begins previews on May 21st. For more info, click here.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Inside the Lines: An inside Look

This spring Signature Theatre is offering a class for teens called "Inside the Lines: Text and Performance."

The class will be Mondays, April 29-June 10th (no class on May 27th) from 6:30-8:00 PM. Tuition is $240. Registration closes on Monday, April 22nd! REGISTER HERE.

So what exactly is this class about?

You’re given a part, handed a script, and then what? Learn to use every word for your advantage by breaking the script down to its essentials, including structure, subtext, beats, and objectives. Once you’ve mastered the text, you’ll learn how to take that knowledge to create a detailed and engaging performance.

Who will be teaching the class?

Jack Novak, a professional actor, writer and teaching artist who has worked with several renowned theatres in Chicago, including the Filament Theatre Ensemble and the Mime Company.

Company Seminar: Sondheim's Secrets Revealed

  • The original title of Company was "Threes."
  • Dean Jones, who originated the role of Robert on Broadway, was shortly thereafter replaced by Larry Kert, who is also famous for originating the role of Tony in West Side Story.
  • Company is considered one of the first "concept musical" - a musical where the show's central imagery, metaphor or message takes precedence over traditional narrative structure. 
  • The recording session for the Original Cast Recording of Company stretched into the wee hours of the morning. Elaine Stritch, who played Joanne, was the last to leave. A critically acclaimed documentary, following the recording sessions for Company, was created by D.A. Pennebaker. 
  • The first FOUR HOURS of rehearsal for the original production were spent on just the first page of the show.
  • The final song of the show was changed three times before it was finalized.

Want to know more of the secrets behind Sondheim's Company? Or find out how Signature is putting their own spin on the show?

Register for Signature Seminar: Side by Side with the Creative Team of Signature's Company

Sign up today for a special six part look into Signature Theatre’s 2013 production of Company. This unique opportunity will take you right into the center of this timeless musical examination of marriage, loneliness, and commitment. This production is brought to life under the direction of Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer.

For more information about Signature Seminar or how to register, click here.

Enjoy a taste of this classic musical:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Last Five Years: What's Not to Love?

If you’re a musical theatre person, you’ve probably heard of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, and if you’ve heard of it, you’ve probably listened to it and subsequently become obsessed with this show.

The Last Five Years has enjoyed more than 500 productions in America (many in colleges and high schools) and thousands more overseas. The question then is, “Why is everyone so in love with this show?”  What is it about this story that has people lining up outside theaters around the world?

In search of an answer, we checked out blogs and talked to people within our own offices:

Credit: Teresa Wood

"I love The Last Five Years because the songs show such masterful musical theatre songwriting, but at the same time they feel fresh, simple, and catchy. I also love the show because its modest scope allows for the poignant moments to come across in a clean and elegant way… the show doesn’t hit us over the head with how sad it is."
Hunter (Signature Publicity and Communications Manager)

“I think people find Jamie’s enthusiasm and artistic success inspiring and inviting. Artists like it because it’s at least partially about the experience of being an artist (both succeeding and failing). Actors like it because it is full of great audition songs. Anybody who’s ever been unsure about dating someone likes it because it speaks to a lot of common difficulties in relationships.”
Joan (Signature Education Intern)

“As much fun as it is to see shows about people who sing and escape Nazis (The Sound of Music) or free flying monkeys (Wicked) sometimes it’s therapeutic and personally enlightening to see a show that feels like it’s about your life.”
– Kari (blogger)

New York Post blogger Elisabeth Vincentelli believes that for the younger generation, it comes down to the show's “specific yet romantic depiction of life in New York City. Brown might as well have written an open letter to creative small-town kids who can’t wait to graduate and move to the big city.”
– Elisabeth Vincentelli (NY Post Blogger)

Credit: Teresa Wood
“There’s a warmth to that voicing and orchestration that just draws you in from the start, and for the next 90 minutes, I sat there watching a master class in how to construct an intimate chamber musical about what it is to love and lose… I wouldn’t experience the pain of romantic heartbreak for the first time until three years later, but The Last Five Years was the only thing I wanted to listen to during that period, because there was something so universal about the storytelling that it was the only thing with which I could identify.”
– Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (blogger) 

Regarding Signature's production, Washington Post reviewer Nelson Pressley remarked "[The show]hurtles with energy: The story-rich songs soar with youthful expectation and cut with the fury of thwarted desires... Both characters have abrasive qualities — it’s a strength of Brown’s writing — yet Weaver and Gardiner (who ages convincingly) are appealing enough to keep your rooting interest high."
Read the full review here.

What do you love about the The Last Five Years?
Tell us by tweeting @sigtheatre and using the hashtag #sigL5Y.

Credit: Teresa Wood
Signature is lucky to be working with a fantastic team of actors, designers, musicians, director, etc on this production. Click here for some of James Gardiner's thoughts on his character and check out "A Quick 5 with Erin Weaver."

P.S. If you enjoyed his performance, give a shout out to James on twitter: @jamesdgardiner. As for the talented Erin Weaver and Aaron Posner, you’ll just have to give your regards in person.

Watch the video of Signature Theatre's Page to Stage at the Shirlington Branch Library with guests Aaron Posner (director) and wife Erin Weaver (Cathy).

To find out how to purchase tickets, click here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hello, Edward Gero! (and Dolly, for that matter)

For our April Brown Bag Thursday, we will be entertaining Edward Gero, a veteran actor playing the role of Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly!, a co-production between Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre.

Horace and Dolly share a meal at the Harmonia Gardens.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Hello, Dolly! is perhaps one of the most iconic of American musicals, conjuring images of stars like Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, and Barbra Streisand. However, Hello, Dolly! did not begin as the powerhouse of a musical that we know today. The musical Hello, Dolly! actually began as a play called The Merchant of Yonkers, written by Thornton Wilder in 1938. Never heard of it? That’s probably because The Merchant of Yonkers was a flop. It was only after Wilder re-worked the play and published it under the title The Matchmaker in 1955 that the story began to pick up steam. Ten years later, lyricist and composer Jerry Herman and book writer Michael Stewart completed their adaptation of Wilder’s play into the show audiences have been humming and tapping along to for the last fifty years. The ten-time Tony Award-winning musical ran for seven years and 2,844 performances on Broadway, has since been revived multiple times and been performed in countries all around the world.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show:

In the Tony-winning musical farce Hello, Dolly!, the cantankerous half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder hires matchmaker Dolly Levi to find him a wife. Dolly soon hatches a plan to woo and win Vandergelder’s hand herself, while simultaneously arranging romantic prospects for his niece, his clerks and two of Manhattan’s most eligible shop girls.

Watch the Ford's Theatre Hello, Dolly! trailer here.
Our Brown Bag guest Edward Gero will be playing the role of Horace Vandergelder the aforementioned "cantakerous half-a-millionaire." Read a little about him in this bio courtesy of George Mason University where Gero teaches:

Edward Gero, a fourteen-time nominee and four time recipient of the prestigious  Helen Hayes Award for his work in Shakespeare, contemporary and musical theatre, has been teaching at George Mason University since 1991.   Offering a wide variety of courses from Beginning Acting to Characterization, Acting Shakespeare, Verse Speaking, Script Analysis, and many others, he continues his 30 year performance career throughout Washington stages and across the nation.

This year he completed a critically acclaimed production of John Logan’s Tony Award winning play RED, directed by Tony Award winning director, Robert Falls at The Goodman Theater in Chicago and Arena Stage in Washington. He wrote a blog “The Making of RED” to chronicle his process. He will be returning in the 2012 Washington Theater season as Scrooge in the acclaimed production of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater. In 2011 he appeared in The Chosen by Chaim Potok at Arena Stage and Salieri in Amadeus at The Round House Theatre in Bethesda, MD.

He has been a company member of the nationally known Shakespeare Theatre Company in downtown Washington since 1983, appearing in over 75 productions there. He was named an associate artist at Center Stage in Baltimore, MD.  He appears at many others regional theaters including The Goodman Theater in Chicago, Ford’s Theatre, The Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, Arena Stage, Olney Theatre Center, Theater J and George Mason's own Theatre of the First Amendment.  He can also be heard narrating on The Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Nat Geo.

Don't forget to be part of the conversation tomorrow! Our Brown Bag Discussion with Edward Gero will begin at 1pm in the Mead Lobby at Signature Theatre. Can't make it in person? Follow us on twitter @sigtheatre or use #sigbrownbag.

Ford's and Signature's co-production of Hello, Dolly! is currently playing at Ford's Theatre and will run until May 18th. To purchase tickets online, click here.

Want a second opinion on what you saw or a head's up on what you'll be seeing? Check out some of the reviews for Ford's and Signature's Dolly!:

COMING UP: May 6th, 2013 Page to Stage -- Join us for a special viewing of the film version of Hello, Dolly! starring Barbara Streisand. The film will begin at 6:30pm in the Shirlington Branch Library. We'll bring the popcorn, you fill the seats!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today in Theatre History: Musical Theatre Goes Global


In  the “Today in Theatre History” series, we take a specific event in theatre history and use it as a starting point for discussion about aspects of theatre – past, present, and future.

On April 10th, 1994 the hit-musical Les Miserables, opened at the Hiten Theatre in Osaka, Japan.
Click here to listen to a recording of "One Day More" performed by the Japanese cast.
The Japanese "Les Mis" cast performs "One Day More."

Japan? Last time I checked Les Miserables was not a Japanese musical.” Correct. However, what many people don’t realize is that there is a steadily growing musical theatre world outside of the United States. Musicals are no longer solely an American, or even British, art form.

Look at the Shiki Theatre Company in Japan – they’ve been producing original musicals since 1962. Look at the Shanghai Grand Theatre which in 2011 produced the first all-Chinese production of “Mamma Mia,” or even the partnership between the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) and the Korean Daegu International Music Festival. And not only are these shows being produced and performed in their countries of origin, but Korean musicals are touring to Japan, Japanese musicals to Taiwan, etc.

COMPARE: Broadway "Mamma Mia" vs. Beijing "Mamma Mia"

"Butterflies" was China's first Broadway-style musical.
How is it that something so “quintessentially” American is finding its way into the hearts and minds of people all across Asia? The culture-specific evolution of the art form speaks for itself:
Asian countries are not only latching on to Western stories and scores, but they are now expanding on that foundation and creating their own works: “As countries have yearned for independence, musicals have had to accommodate their particular tastes. American and British productions have been staged in other languages, and new markets have been created and know-how accumulated. Now these countries are starting to make the things that people want to see.”

Who knows, perhaps in coming years the musical will no longer be defined as an American art form, but rather as an international art form. Best keep an eye out.

For our 2013 SigLab project, Signature Theatre will be spending July 9th-27th workshopping a new musical called “Spin,” based on the hit Korean comedy, “Speedy Scandal”:

Faded pop star Evan coasts through life. However, when a surprise daughter and grandson arrive on his doorstep, Evan must choose between the gift of family and the glittering appeal of fame. Spin is a humorous, charming and heartwarming tale about what really matters in life.”




In this blog post we’ve focused on the expansion of musical theatre into Asia. However, the musical theatre movement in many other countries and continents is alive and well! Click here to learn about Theatre Communication Group’s international Music Theatre NOW Competition.


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