Love, fear and the Almighty will run through Signature Theatre’s 2017-2018 season, according to a schedule jointly announced by Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland.
The new season will start this August 15 with a ginormous hit crafted by the team that brought you Sweeney Todd: Hugh Wheeler and Steven Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Set in early 20th-century Sweden, Night Music is the story of a fantastic web of artists and aristocrats who spin webs of deception ultimately punctured by bouts of honesty. “Good God! — an adult musical,” said Clive Barnes of the New York Times when the show made its debut in 1973. The Signature production will feature Holly Twyford, Bobby Smith, Florence Lacey, Will Gartshore, Tracy Lynn Olivera, and Maria Rizzo, and be directed by Schaeffer. Until October 8, 2017.
On October 3, Almighty God will make an appearance on Signature ‘s ARK stage (how appropriate!) in Act of God, tweeting his boredom with the Ten Commandments (“Yea, I have grown weary of the Ten Commandments, in exactly the same way that Don McLean has grown weary of ‘American Pie,’”) and taking questions from the audience. Eleanor Holdridge directs this production and Tom Story will play God, a role originated (theatrically) by Jim Parsons. “[A] gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes through the words of the Bible and use them to their own ends,” according to the New York Times’ Charles Isherwood. Until November 26, 2017.
In November, Signature will bring back Crazy for You, local writer Ken Ludwig’s creation of a musical around the music of George and Ira Gershwin. Ludwig’s story is that a banker goes to a small Nevada town to foreclose a mortgage on a local theater, but falls in love with the owner’s daughter and decides to stage a play to pay off the mortgage instead. The show had quite an impact on Broadway in 1992; Frank Rich of the Times said “[w]hen future historians try to find the exact moment at which Broadway finally rose up to grab the musical back from the British, they just may conclude that the revolution began last night. The shot was fired at the Shubert Theater, where a riotously entertaining show called Crazy for You uncorked the American musical’s classic blend of music, laughter, dancing, sentiment and showmanship with a freshness and confidence rarely seen during the Cats decade.” Matthew Gardiner directs; from November 7, 2017 through January 14, 2018.
Signature kicks off the new year with two world premiere. In the ARK, and as part of the women’s voices theatre festival, we’ll see local playwright Annalisa Dias’ 4,380 Nights, the story of a man, held without charge at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center for twelve years, who comes to see his own fear as an even greater prison. This Kathleen Akerley-directed play will run from January 16 to February 18 of next year.
In the meantime, at the MAX, Signature will be producing a world premiere musical crafted by Robbie Schaefer of the indie folk-rock band Eddie from Ohio. Bobby Smith is featured in Light Years, in which Robbie pursues both his musical passion and a relationship with his haunted father to India and back. Eric Schaeffer will direct this production, which will run from February 1 to April 17, 2018.
In April, Signature will feature the DC premiere of two new plays. One, by Annie Baker (The Flick; Circle Mirror Transformation) is the Joe Calarco-directed John, and is the story of a couple in a crumbling marriage who decide to take a getaway in a bed-and-breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They end up learning more than the history of the Civil War. “Annie Baker’s ‘John’…is so good on so many levels that it casts a unique and brilliant light,” says Hilton Als of The New Yorker. In the MAX from April 3 to 29 of next year.
In the ARK Signature will be showing Girlfriend, a Todd Almond-Matthew Sweet musical about two guys who just finished high school and are in the process of discovering that they look pretty good to each other. In small-town Nebraska, in 1992, that is not a conflict-free proposition. “The awkwardness between the two of them is painful to watch. But it’s painful in an exquisite way,” says David Lyman of the Cincinnati Inquirer. “Awkwardness is not something the theater likes – at least not for an extended period of time. But the awkwardness of these two smacks of authenticity, of sweetness, of hesitance.” Matthew Gardiner directs; from April 17 to June 10, 2018.
Signature will wrap up its season with John Kander and Fred Ebb’s final collaboration, the musical tragedy The Scottsboro Boys. Kander and Ebb’s outrageous conceit is to tell this true story, in which nine African-American teenage men are falsely convicted of raping two white women and sentenced to death, in the form of a minstrel show. “The Scottsboro Boys may be set in the ‘30s but, to its credit, it is directed at the 21st century, spending little time pandering to liberal guilt,” observed Kamela Dolinova of Boston’s ArtFuse. “This isn’t your typical ‘gee, remember how bad racism used to be’ fare. Unlike movies like The Help or Driving Miss Daisy, which do their best to assure white people how progressive they have become, The Scottsboro Boys explores how the damage is inescapable, back in the day and now. This decision to be scathingly honest ran up against the delusional attitudes and platitudes of Broadway audiences and critics.” Calarco directs; from May 22 to June 1 of next year.