Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Virginia's Tony-Winning Signature Theatre

In honor of the first performance of Chess at Virginia’s Signature Theatre tonight, I thought I’d take a look at the Tony-winning theatre itself. Why the interest in a theatre so far from my home? Well, later this week, I’m actually going down there to see the show!

Chess is one of my favorites and I am a fan of all three leads: Jill Paice (Curtains), Jeremy Kushnier (Footloose) and Euan Morton (Sondheim on Sondheim). Million Dollar Quartet’s Eric Schaeffer directs. According to press materials, this is the first professional production of the show since 1995 (has it really been that long?) and the very first regional production in the Washington, DC area. Well, it is about time!

Anyway, about Signature Theatre!

  • It is in Arlington, Virginia, less than 5 miles from the Pentagon and a stone’s throw from DC itself.
  • It is part of a huge residential/commercial community and is literally attached to a public library! And it is surrounded by parking garages, stores, eateries and apartments and condos. The theatre was planned for the space, too, not just shoe-horned in or made from an existing space.
  • The Company itself started back in 1993, its mission to present new works, and to fill a void in the area, musicals. It opened in a renovated auto garage, where it remained until the new space opened in 2007.
  • Their current home features two re-configurable black box theatres, the Ark and the Max, a café and a gallery. They are now serving over 80,000 patrons a year.

The Neighborhood at Night

  • It is renowned for its productions of Sondheim musicals, and has, with his blessing, established the annual Stephen Sondheim Award, most recently given to Angela Lansbury.
  • Among its many honors are 276 Helen Hayes Awards nominations and 70 Helen Hayes Awards. Most recently, it received the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award.

Receiving the 2009 Tony Award

  • Its production of Glory Days went on to Broadway, where it notoriously played 1 performance, but has since flourished in regional venues and produced an Original Broadway Cast recording.
  • In addition to devoting itself to productions of Sondheim musicals, Signature also held a year-long Kander and Ebb Celebration, including productions of The Happy Time, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Visit.

Glory Days

The Visit

  • They are equally devoted to supporting up and coming and newly established musical theatre writers, such as Michael John LaChuisa (producing premieres of The Highest Yellow and Giant), Rick Ian Gordon (premiere of The Sycamore Tree), and the American premiere of The Witches of Eastwick.
  • Among the well-known names who have performed with the Signature Theatre Company: Chita Rivera, George Hearn, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, Norm Lewis, Jill Paice, Emily Skinner, Christiane Noll and Euan Morton.
  • Their educational outreach programs have also garnered national recognition, and serve thousands of students in Northern Virginia.

Marc Kudisch in The Witches of Eastwick

Judy Kuhn in The Highest Yellow

Helen Hayes Award winning Les Miserables

I had planned to post my review of Chess this week, but the opening is not until August 29. And so my review of the show will post August 30. I will, however, try to post some pictures of the space and the neighborhood well before then.

Comments? Leave one here, at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com, on Twitter or on Formspring! Follow me!



  1. Hey, JK, hope you have fun in my neck of the woods when you come down to see Chess. I don't know that I'll get to see it this weekend, but maybe the next. Several good restaurants down the street from Signature, but for dessert I recommend Cake Love, right next door.

  2. Londyn...

    I am very much looking forward to visiting this place! And Cake Love sounds right up my alley...

    Be sure to let me know what you think of Chess when you see it.



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