On May 17, 2022, friends and supporters of Signature Theatre gathered at Capital One Hall in Tyson, VA for the 11th Sondheim Award Gala. The evening celebrated Signature’s reopening season, Stephen Sondheim, and Carol Burnett—this year’s Sondheim Award honoree and the last awardee to be personally picked by the late Stephen Sondheim. It featured a mix of speeches, video clips, and photos from decades past, and performances from a mix of Broadway and DC-regional actors.
Alongside the Sondheim Award, the evening recognized the J. Watkins Distinguished Service Award Honorees, Merrill and Mark Shugoll. The couple was awarded for the pro-bono and heavily-discounted market research their company, Shugoll Research (now Limelight Insights by Shugoll), has donated to arts institutions and for their initiatives to share the arts with young people. One such initiative, ArtSpeak!, has brought national and local artists into public schools at nearly 100 events in the past two decades.
Featured performances throughout the evening played tribute to both Sondheim and Burnett’s legendary careers. Signature favorites’ Paul Scanlan, Awa Sal Secka, and Rachel Zampelli opened with “Comedy Tonight” from Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” followed by “Shy” from “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Easy Street” from “Annie”—both songs from roles that Burnett notably played.
Later in the evening, Tony Award-winner Santino Fontana performed “Buddy’s Blues” from Sondheim’s “Follies” and “Anyone Can Whistle” from the eponymous musical, supposedly Burnett’s favorite Sondheim song. Bernadette Peters then took the stage, singing “Old Friend” from “Merrily We Roll Along,” a homage to her 55-year friendship with Burnett. Musical clips from “The Carol Burnett Show” were also showcased, evidencing Burnett’s long relationship with Bernadette Peters and Sondheim.
The highest-selling Sondheim Award Gala in Signature’s history, the event was delayed from 2020 by the pandemic.
More information can be found on Signature’s website.