And the Curtain Rises

by Michael Slade, Joseph Talken, and Mark Campbell
originally produced at Signature Theatre , Arlington, VA.
March 15, 2011 through April 10, 2011

About the Premiere Production:

Partly Historical. Totally Hysterical. The world premiere musical comedy And the Curtain Rises loosely re-imagines the theatrical bedlam surrounding the creation of the first American musical. Set in 1866, this classic backstage tale follows novice producer William Wheatley as he finds his production in shambles: bruised egos, secret plots, romance, some skimpy costumes, an uncompromising author, and a cast on the verge of revolt. All is complicated when a French ballet troupe is forced to seek refuge in his theatre after a fire erupts in an adjacent theatre. Rather than throw in the towel and count his losses, Wheatley decides to take control and turn lemons into lemonade. Filled with outrageous characters and rich melodies, and reveling in the chaos and camaraderie of the theatre, And the Curtain Rises is a lovely valentine to a unique American art form.

Artistic Statement

Signature Theatre has grown from its modest roots to become a Tony Award®-winning regional theater and a leader in creating, producing, and sustaining musical theater. Throughout its history, the company has provided a creative home for established and emerging artists to collaborate on fresh new projects and Signature has earned a reputation as a place for artists to develop and test new works. Since its founding, Signature has produced 26 world premiere plays – including 14 new musicals – and its reputation for top-notch musical production attracts the best and brightest in the field. It’s my goal to secure Signature’s position as one of America’s leading producers of new musical theater works.

Producing new work is particularly gratifying. It is a long and sometimes difficult process, but it is incredibly energizing to see a work built up entirely from an idea. I am proud to be presenting Wheatley’s Folly as part of Signature’s 2011 Mainstage season. I am also grateful that, in addition to nurturing new artists and providing a collaborative environment for creating new work, Signature has developed an audience that is willing to take chances and risks and come to see completely new shows. Signature is absolutely the best venue for Wheatley’s Folly because it can lend credibility and visibility to this new musical.

I have known [composer] Joseph Thalken for many years from his work on various recordings to his work on Harold & Maude and Songs from an Unmade Bed and I was very impressed by his compositions for the musical Was. The depth and style of his writing is fresh and exciting, and I knew immediately that Joe would be a natural fit for Signature’s American Musical Voices Project. With collaborators Michael Slade and Mark Campbell, the team created Wheatley’s Folly. There are not many people writing musical comedies today that aren’t based on pre-existing material and Wheatley’s Folly is a funny and completely new work based on the creation of The Black Crook, which many believe isAmerica’s first true musical.


What this grant has allowed us to do:

Signature has a great track record for furthering the production of new work and many of Signature’s world premieres have gone on to be performed in regional theaters across the United States and on Broadway. Producing new musicals is extremely rewarding, but is also very expensive – particularly when you are committed to a large cast and full orchestra. Having the flexibility to make adjustments to Wheatley’s Folly during previews by adding an additional week of rehearsal with the production’s design team is a luxury that Signature could not normally afford. The Edgerton Foundation Award for New American Plays will have a significant, positive impact on the production and will ensure that the world premiere of Wheatley’s Folly will receive the best production possible. Future productions can depend largely on critical response to the work and having funds for an additional week to rehearse prior to the press opening will add to the likelihood of a positive reception and greater visibility for the musical, its creators, and for Signature.

Creative Team:

Book by: Michael Slade
Music by: Joseph Talken
Lyrics by: Mark Campbell

Additional Funders:

Shen Family Foundation

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