Piracy and “Passion” are in order for Signature Theatre’s 2018-19 season — in the form of a world-premiere musical by the songwriting team behind “The Witches of Eastwick,” and a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1994 complexly psychological musical about the mysteries of physical and spiritual attraction.
“Blackbeard,” with book and lyrics by John Dempsey and music by Dana P. Rowe, will be directed by Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and unveiled June 11, 2019, on Signature’s main stage, as one of the cornerstone events of the company’s 29th season. Another will be the show that launches the season, Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner’s staging of “Passion,” with Natascia Diaz, the Anita of Signature’s “West Side Story,” as Fosca, the woman who becomes enmeshed in an obsessive love affair.
A show that won’t be on Signature’s menu, however, is one the company previously announced for 2018-19: the world premiere of “August Rush,” based on a 2007 movie about the quest of a musical prodigy with unusual powers. The production had to be scrubbed from Signature’s calendar, company officials explained, because of the scheduling problems that arose after the rights to revive another show that was to have been included in the Signature season were withdrawn. That change, they said, made it financially impossible to stage “August Rush,” which was to be directed at Signature by Tony winner John Doyle. The show remains on the schedule of the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Ill., where it was to head after the Signature premiere.
After “Passion” (Aug. 14-Sept. 23) starts Signature off this summer, the company will follow with the Washington premiere of “Heisenberg” (Sept. 18-Nov. 11), a play by Simon Stephens about the romance between a young woman and an older man. Joe Calarco will direct. Then comes a revival of “Billy Elliot the Musical” (Oct. 3-Jan. 6), to be staged by Gardiner. After that, the company produces a revival of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” (Jan. 23-March 10), directed by Calarco and choreographed by Camille Brown.
A world-premiere play, “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” by Heather McDonald, will run from Feb. 26 to March 31 on Signature’s second stage. Set in an art museum in a dystopian, war-racked world, the work will be directed by Nadia Tass and feature Holly Twyford and Felicia Curry. Next up, Schaeffer will direct a revival of “Grand Hotel, the Musical” (April 2-May 12) with a cast that includes Diaz, Bobby Smith, Nicki Elledge and Kevin McAllister.
Then Timothy Douglas, who shepherded Arena Stage’s fine production of “Disgraced,” makes his Signature directorial debut with a revival of “Spunk,” (April 30-June 23), George C. Wolfe’s distillation of three short stories by Zora Neale Hurston. “Blackbeard” (June 11-July 7) concludes the season.
An ambitious roster of cabaret events will occur throughout the season, highlighting such artists as Mark G. Meadows, Akua Allrich and Robbie Schaefer. Motown, folk rock, jazz and Judy Garland will be among the sounds and voices covered in the five-show cabaret series.