Arlington's Signature Theatre was the big winner in this year's Helen Hayes Awards, which recognize outstanding work in professional theater throughout Virginia, Washington and Maryland.
Specifically, it was the Signature production of the musical "Urinetown" which walked away with a raft of honors. Work on the production was recognized with eight awards. No other show or theater had more than two this year.
The show, known as "the musical with the awful title," is, in fact, a parody of the conventions of the Broadway musical. It was written by Greg Kotis with music by Mark Hollman and was a surprise hit in New York where it transferred from off-Broadway to a full Broadway theater and won Tony Awards for both its score and its script.
Signature won the right to mount the first post-Broadway production of the show and it was a big hit last summer, selling out most of its limited run in the 136-seat theater on South Four Mile Run Drive.
"Urinetown" was named the Outstanding Musical of 2005 and its director, Joe Calarco, was given the Outstanding Direction of a Musical Award. Awards also went to the show's choreographer, Karma Camp, and its musical Director, Jay Crowder.
All four awards for performers in a musical went to members of the cast of "Urinetown" including supporting actor Stephen F. Schmidt and supporting actress Jenna Sokolowski. In an unusual situation, there were ties in the categories of both lead actor and lead actress in a musical. Will Gartshore who starred in "Urinetown" received his award in a tie with Michael McElroy who starred in Ford's Theatre's production of "Big River" and Erin Driscoll who starred as Gartshore's love interest in the show at Signature received hers in a tie with Meg Gillentine who starred in the Arena Stage production of "Damn Yankees."
The next production at Signature Theatre will be another musical directed by Joe Calarco. It will be the Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical "Assassins" which will run May 30 - July 16. The last time "Assassins" was produced at Signature was 1993 and it walked away with that year's Helen
Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical as well.