On March 4, 2019, Audra McDonald received Signature Theatre’s Stephen Sondheim Award at a black-tie Gala Benefit at the Embassy of Italy. The award, established in 2009 in honor of America’s most influential musical theater writer and composer, benefits Signature’s artistic, education and community programs.
“Three of the ten annual Signature Theater’s Stephen Sondheim Awards have been given to women: Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone,” said Stephen Sondheim. “Coincidently, I’d worked with each of them four times, although Signature assured me that that was not a requirement. So this year’s recipient is Audra MacDnald, a woman with whom I’ve worked – four times. Any composer who’s had the privilege of having Audra MacDonald sing their work even once is lucky. I’m very lucky.”
Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple, The Widows), Norm Lewis (Porgy & Bess, Sondheim on Sondheim), Heidi Blickenstaff (Something Rotten!, [title of show]), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Signature’s A Little Night Music, Titanic) and Nova Y. Payton (Signature’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, Dreamgirls) performed to honor Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner McDonald, who was visibly moved to tears when receiving the award.
“Hold on to the arts, support the arts, protect the arts!” McDonald said upon receiving the honor. “They show us our humanity and they’re the only thing that will get us through these difficult times.”
In addition to honoring McDonald — and U.S. Representative Don Beyer and Megan Beyer with the inaugural J. Watkins Distinguished Service Award — this year’s Gala raised more money than any other event in Signature Theatre history. The Gala directly benefits Signature’s artistic, education and community programs.