As part of the Signature Theatre 20th anniversary celebration, the theater is using their cabaret series to highlight productions of their past… in 5-year increments. (Got that?) So the first show featured Erin Driscoll, Eleasha Gamble, Amy McWilliams, Matt Pearson, and Stephen Schmidt singing songs from Signature shows produced 1989 – 1994 including Sweeney Todd, Company, Wings, Assassins, and Into The Woods.
The evening is more mini-revue than cabaret in as much as the performers are singing as characters rather than sharing personal points of view using the material. And there is a good deal of staging in the theater space.
That said, director Michael Baron has assembled a lot of material from the five shows being summarized* and keeps the evening moving along. He makes an attempt to re-contextualize some very familiar material (e.g. Company’s Barcelona as a morning after menage a trois rather than a duet; Ladies Who Lunch as a duet with a Sex in the City vibe). However, the show seems to work best with more straightforward presentations of the material. And this is never truer than when either Erin Driscoll or Eleasha Gamble are on stage. Driscoll was exquisitely mesmerizing in two songs from Wings and an total charmer in On the Steps of the Palace, sitting on top of the piano in only one shoe. Gamble’s version of Last Midnight was absolutely riveting.
The five performers sounded amazing in the group numbers. Music director Jay Crowder deserves special praise for not only furnishing a completely nuanced evening of sound, but also for his amazing work in reducing numbers like Company and Everybody’s Got the Right cohesively for five performers.
As someone who passed the auditions for the first Signature production of Sweeney Todd in the Gunston Arts Center and saw that original production twice, I was especially happy to see the evening pay tribute to the history of Signature flashing photos from the productions of the shows onto the stage. It is also terrific that people involved with the shows have written in with memories and that each performance will feature a different guest. Tonight Dana Kruger, the star of Wings, was particularly charming with her memories of the production.
The encore of the show was The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, the opening number of Signature’s first show, Sweeney Todd. And it seemed poignantly appropriate to end the evening where it all started.
Signature Sings: 1989-1994
October 13 – 18, 2009
TICKETS $33 Click here or call 703-820-9771
SPECIAL GUESTS INVITED TO SHARE THEIR MEMORIES INCLUDE: from the original company of Wings
Tuesday 8:30pm – Dana Kruger
Wednesday 8:30pm – Judy Simmons from the original companies of Sweeney Todd, Assassins, and Company
Thursday 8:30pm – Karma Camp, choreographer of Company
Friday 7:30pm – Jon Kalbfleisch, music director for Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Company, Wings, and Into the Woods
Friday 9:30pm – Liz Isbell from the original companies of Sweeney Todd and Company
Saturday 7:30pm – Buzz Mauro from the original companies of Assassins, Company and Into the Woods
Saturday 9:30pm – Artistic Director and Signature co- founder Eric Schaeffer, director of Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Company, Wings and Into the Woods
Sunday 2pm – Michael Sharp from the original companies of Sweeney Todd, Assassins and Into the Woods