Theater will celebrate works of duo

ARLINGTON, Va. — A four-month celebration of the works of John Kander and Fred Ebb will kick off the Signature Theater’s upcoming season.

The project launches in September with “The Visit,” featuring Chita Rivera, followed by “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “The Happy Time.”

Signature a.d. Eric Schaeffer selected the tribute to inaugurate the first full season of Signature’s new two-theater complex. The festival also will include a one-week booking of singer Karen Akers’ cabaret perf of Kander & Ebb songs, screenings of four films with K&E scores and an evening featuring Kander’s personal reflections on his showbiz career and partnership, among other events.

Schaeffer says he is surprised “The Visit” has received little attention since its debut in 2001 at Chicago’s Goodman Theater.

Signature’s new season also will include “Merrily We Roll Along,” the 1981 musical by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. Christopher D’Amboise will direct his dance-play “The Studio,” and Martin Moran will perform his boyhood memoir, “The Tricky Part.” The sked also will include a world premiere musical that has not yet been announced.

The lineup demonstrates Signature’s new eagerness to court nationally known artists now that it can accommodate them in a larger performance space, as well as provide better rehearsal and dressing rooms and lodging.

The D.C.-area theater, which focuses primarily on musicals, has been prominently associated with the works of Sondheim. But Signature also has enjoyed a long history with Kander & Ebb, staging “Cabaret,” “Over & Over” and “The Rink.”

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