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D.C.’s Signature signs on for world premieres

New musicals from Foster, Gwon to bow

A whopping five world premieres, four of them tuners, are on tap for Signature Theater’s 2011-12 slate — the most ever to be mounted in a single season by the D.C. area’s 22-year-old troupe.

Sked will open in August with two original musical adaptations presented in revolving repertory: “The Hollow,” based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” with book by actor-scribe Hunter Foster (who recently starred in the tuner version of “Little Miss Sunshine”) and music and lyrics by Matt Conner; and “The Boy Detective Fails,” author Joe Meno’s revision of his novel with music and lyrics by Adam Gwon.

Schaeffer and director Joe Calarco will stage “Hollow” and “Detective,” respectively, on the theater’s main stage with a single cast. Both are part of Signature’s American Musical Voices Project, a series supported by the Shen Family Foundation.

In November, Signature will debut a musical two-hander by philanthropist Ted Shen called “A Second Chance.” Story about the romance between a widower and a divorcee will be directed by Jonathan Butterell, who staged Signature’s 2009 production of “Giant.”

In January, Signature presents a new tuner by writer-lyricist John Dempsey and composer Dana Rowe, the team that created “The Witches of Eastwick.” Called “Brother Russia,” it’s a rock musical about a shoddy Russian theater troupe’s production by its impresario, the mystic Rasputin. Schaeffer will stage.

Company also will debut a new drama in January by writer-performer Paul Downs Colaizzo called “Really Really,” billed as a comic tragedy about the realities of today’s youth.

A revival of “Hairspray” will be mounted next winter, in a staging directed by Schaeffer, and “Xanadu” in April. Matthew Gardiner will direct and choreograph. Signature will also stage seldom-produced Stephen Sondheim musical “Saturday Night” and a solo show by E. Patrick Johnson, “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men From the South.”

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