“The last time I worked at Wolf Trap, I was six years old,” says Matthew Gardiner. “I was in the Boston Ballet’s production of Casey at the Bat.” Thirty years later, Gardiner, who was recently appointed artistic director of Signature Theatre, has finally worked his way back to the National Park for the Performing Arts.
“Wolf Trap came to us and asked, ‘Would you be interested in partnering?'” he says, explaining the origins of a new pandemic-born collaboration between Wolf Trap and Signature Theatre. “We looked at various possibilities, from full-blown productions to concerts and everything in between.”
They settled on a one-off theatrical concert production, set in the Filene Center and dubbed Broadway In The Park. It was conceived of as “a celebration of musical theater and live music and the return to live theater.” “[We want to] create a really magical evening outdoors,” says Gardiner.
Gardiner enlisted Signature’s longtime music director Jon Kalbfleisch to help select standards from hit musicals to feature over the course of the 100-minute program. Kalbfleisch will lead a 25-piece orchestra, offering rich accompaniment for Broadway superstars Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ragtime) and Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) as well as several Signature standouts serving as an ensemble, including Nova Y. Payton, Bobby Smith, Christian Douglas, and Tracy Lynn Olivera.
The show has been loosely structured to provide an emotional journey, with “some exciting uptempos” to start and “more emotionally resonant moments” later. “We’re closing the show with ‘Sunday in the Park with George,’ with Brian and Renée singing the George and Dot lines, and the D.C. ensemble singing the lush, romantic, rapturous chorus,” says Gardiner.
Meant to be “uplifting and joyous and celebratory,” Broadway in the Park will give audiences “a chance to convene in a space that they perhaps feel slightly more comfortable in at the moment.”
Gardiner is hopeful theatergoers will feel more comfortable returning to in-person, indoor shows come November. That’s when Signature will launch its new season with a reimagined production of Jonathan Larson’s RENT.
“That’s going to be the big question in the coming months,” says Gardiner. “How comfortable will audiences feel being in a space together? We are all waiting on pins and needles, on the edge of our seats, to see how audiences feel about being indoors, sitting next to strangers, hearing a story together. And I think we’re all hopeful that people will come rushing back [for] that communal experience. We’ve missed it, for too long.”
Broadway In The Park is Friday, Sept. 3, at 8 p.m. at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap, 1645 Trap Road, Vienna, Va. Tickets are $32. Call 877-WOLFTRAP or visit www.wolftrap.org. To enter to win a pair of tickets to the show, click here.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!