Washington Savoyards was a professional musical theatre company based in Washington, DC. Founded in 1972, the company annually produced three fully staged musicals and operettas, usually including at least one Gilbert and Sullivan production each year. It performed at the Duke Ellington School and the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The company suspended performances in 2012.
Description of the company
The company was formed in 1972 as the Montgomery Savoyards but changed its name in 1981, since its performers, musicians and patrons are drawn from all over the Washington, DC metropolitan area. For its first three decades, the company performed primarily the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. It began performing in church halls and a high school. In 1982, it moved to the Trinity Theatre in Georgetown, Washington. In 1987, it transferred to the Duke Ellington Theatre at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, also in Georgetown, which served as its home for ten years.
By 2003, the company decided to expand its repertoire beyond the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, to produce at least three shows a year, and to find a new theatre. The first non-Gilbert and Sullivan piece produced by the company was Jacques Offenbach's La Périchole, during the 2004–2005 season. The following season was the first with three productions, and most seasons since then have had at least three productions. The Company cast the first of many members of Actors Equity in 2006. In late 2006, the company moved to its new home, the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Northeast Washington. The company has also performed at the H Street Festival, Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, and at the Arts Club of Washington, among other venues.
Washington Savoyards attracts its singers from among opera and theatre professionals based in the Washington area, as well as from music, theatre, and opera students at local universities. In 2004, the company was accepted into residency at Flashpoint, Washington's arts incubator run by the Cultural Development Corporation of Washington. The company's artistic director, since 2007, is N. Thomas Pedersen. Audrey M. Shipp directed all of the Savoyards' productions from 1973 until 1995. In recent years, its directors have included Michael Baron, Michael J. Bobbitt, and Jay D. Brock.
The company receives support from charitable foundations, such as the Fund for Maryland's Future, the Sprenger-Lang Foundation, MARPAT Foundation, the Meyer Foundation, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and individual donors, as well as from ticket sales and program advertising. The company's name is a reference to the Savoy Theatre in London, where the Gilbert and Sullivan operas were originally presented in the 1880s and 1890s by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and to aficionados and performers of the Savoy operas. In 1986, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist (later Chief Justice of the United States) joined the Washington Savoyards as "the Solicitor" in its production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience.
In recent seasons, the company has performed such works as Ain't Misbehavin', Kiss Me, Kate, The Merry Widow and Man of La Mancha, as well as Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Sandy Bainum brought the company its first Helen Hayes nomination for her role as Marian Paroo in the 2009 production of The Music Man. During the 2009–2010 season, the Company sponsored its first educational program.
In February 2012, the company held a 40th anniversary gala, celebrating Gilbert and Sullivan and their legacy to American musical theatre. During the 2012 spring season, Washington Savoyards performed Rodgers & Hammerstein's A Grand Night for Singing and, as a Halloween production, The Rocky Horror Show.
The company's last activity was a staged reading of the musical Delilah in January 2013.
- Official "about us" page of the Savoyards
- Kennedy Center's profile of the company
- Ponick, Terry. "Forty years and still singing, Washington Savoyards throws a gala", DCTheatreScene.com, February 21, 2012
- "Hill Talk", Roll Call, October 19, 2006
- Pederson's profile
- Garcia, Guy D. (1986-06-02). "People". Time. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
- Forrer, April. "Theatre Review: Washington Savoyards’ ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ at Atlas Performing Arts Center", MD Theatre Guide, October 23, 2012
- Home page, Washington Savoyards, accessed May 11, 2015