Signature Theatre to honor Carol Burnett with Stephen Sondheim Award

Bernadette Peters, Santino Fontana, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Nova Y. Payton, and Bobby Smith to perform at gala May 16.

Virginia’s Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre will honor Carol Burnett with the company’s eleventh Stephen Sondheim Award on May 16, 2022. The award will be presented at a black-tie Gala Benefit at Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia, and will benefit Signature Theatre’s artistic, education, and community programs. For the first time, single tickets will be available to the gala awards presentation beginning at 7 PM. Tickets will be $58 and go on sale May 2 at 12 PM on Ticketmaster. More information can be found online.

Paying tribute to Ms. Burnett with live performances are stars of stage and screen Bernadette Peters and Santino Fontana. DC and Signature favorites Tracy Lynn OliveraNova Y. Payton, and Bobby Smith will also perform accompanied by Mark G. Meadows and Jon Kalbfleisch.

Carol Burnett

COVID Safety: All guests are required to provide proof of full vaccination and a negative COVID test (rapid antigen OK) taken on May 16 along with a photo ID for admittance to this event. With these safety measures in place, masks are optional at the event.

Carol Burnett is widely recognized by the public and her peers for her comedic and dramatic roles on television, film, and Broadway, most notably The Carol Burnett Show. Named in 2007 by Time magazine as one of the “100 Best Television Shows of All Time,” The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 years, averaged 30 million viewers per week, and received 25 Emmy Awards, making it one of the most honored shows in television history.

A part of the evening’s festivities will be the presentation of The J. Watkins Distinguished Service Award to Merrill and Mark Shugoll. The award was created in 2018 to honor leaders who have made an extraordinary impact in the greater DC community through their advocacy and passion for the arts and arts education. The award is made in memory of J. Watkins, a long-time Signature board member, an important part of the Sondheim Award Gala leadership team, and a tremendous ambassador for Signature and the arts in our community. Merrill and Mark Shugoll have made a huge impact on Signature as well as the arts industry in DC and across the country. Providing countless hours of market research and pivotal insights into audiences through their companies Shugoll Research and the new Limelight Insights by Shugoll, Merrill and Mark have made it possible for theaters and arts venues across the DMV to serve their audiences better. Their research throughout the pandemic has allowed DC theaters to make more informed decisions in a time of great uncertainty. The Shugolls serve on numerous nonprofit boards, generously giving their support, time, and expertise. Additionally, Merrill and Mark founded the nonprofit ArtsSpeak!, a completely free program to excite students about theater and the arts that has featured such illustrious guests as Lea Michele, Billy Porter, Patti LuPone, and Audra McDonald.

Table sponsorship for the 2022 Sondheim Award Gala ranges from $12,000 to $100,000 and includes rewarding year-long visibility and entertainment benefits. Individual tickets are $1,200. For more information about sponsorship and tickets contact Ashley Richardson, Donor Services Manager at 571-527-1828 or [email protected].

The Sondheim Award Gala is sponsored in part by Amazon and The Boeing Company.


Throughout her illustrious career, Bernadette Peters has dazzled audiences and critics with her performances on stage, film, and television, in concert, and on recordings. Best known for her work on stage, Bernadette recently starred on Broadway as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the hit musical Hello, Dolly! She also enjoys a career that boasts an impressive list of television credits, including Amazon Prime’s popular “Mozart in the Jungle,” which won the 2016 Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy or Musical series. She also starred in the CBS All-Access series, “The Good Fight,” a spin-off of the network’s popular series, “The Good Wife,” and she guest-starred on the NBC-TV series “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” for which she received an Emmy nomination. She just completed shooting a series for Apple TV+, titled High Desert, scheduled for release in 2022.

One of Broadway’s most critically acclaimed performers, Bernadette has garnered numerous accolades including three Tony Awards, a Golden Globe, three Emmy and four Grammy Award nominations, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Recent theater credits include City Center’s Encores! Production A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim and orchestrations by Wynton Marsalis, and on Broadway, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music and Follies.

Peters garnered both the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Song and Dance. She also won a Tony Award for her performance in Annie Get Your Gun. She received Tony nominations for her outstanding performances in Sam Mendes’s critically acclaimed revival of Gypsy, Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl, Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize–winning musical Sunday in the Park with George, the Jerry Herman/Gower Champion ode to the movies, Mack and Mabel, and the Leonard Bernstein/Comden and Green musical On the Town. In addition to these honors, Peters earned a Drama Desk nomination for her unforgettable portrayal of the Witch in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Other television credits include NBC-TV’s “Smash,” ABC-TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Ugly Betty.” In addition to starring in the Lifetime TV movie Living Proof, Peters has lit up the silver screen in 17 films throughout her distinguished career. She received a Golden Globe Award for her memorable performance in “Pennies From Heaven.” Other film credits include The Jerk, The Longest Yard, Silent Movie, AnniePink CadillacSlaves of New York, Woody Allen’s AliceImpromptuIt Runs in the Family, and Coming Up Roses.

Bernadette has recorded six solo albums, including the Grammy-nominated I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Sondheim, Etc.: Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall, and Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein, in addition to numerous original Broadway cast recordings.

Peters devotes her time and talents to numerous events that benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Her “pet project” Broadway Barks, co-founded with Mary Tyler Moore, is an annual, star-studded dog and cat adoption event that benefits shelter animals in the New York City area. She is a New York Times best-selling author who has penned three children’s books: Broadway Barks, Stella is a Star, and Stella and Charlie: Friends Forever. All of her proceeds from the sale of these books benefit Broadway Barks. Peters resides in New York with her rescue dogs, Charlie and Rosalia.

Santino Fontana has cemented himself as one of Broadway’s foremost leading men as well as a formidable screen talent. In 2019, Santino won the Tony Award, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for his virtuosic performance as “Michael Dorsey”/”Dorothy Michaels” in TOOTSIE. He is widely known for lending his voice to the villainous ‘Prince Hans’ in Disney’s Academy Award-winning animated feature, FROZEN. He was also seen in SISTERS, opposite Tina Fey & Amy Poehler. On television, Santino can be seen on the current season of the critically acclaimed THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL.  He also starred on CW’s comedy CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND and NBC’s drama series SHADES OF BLUE, opposite Jennifer Lopez simultaneously.  Other television credits include FOSSE/VERDON, MOZART IN THE JUNGLE, THE GOOD WIFE, NURSE JACKIE, and ROYAL PAINS. He can also be seen in the popular web series, SUBMISSIONS ONLY.  One of Broadway’s brightest stars, the New York Times wrote, “Santino Fontana [is] one of the most promising young actors to emerge in the New York theater in recent years.” His other Broadway credits include his roles in the Tony-winning mega-hit, HELLO DOLLY! opposite Bernadette Peters, as “Moss Hart” in the Tony-nominated ACT ONE opposite Tony Shalhoub, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (Clarence Derwent Award), A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS (Drama Desk Award), BILLY ELLIOT and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. Santino won a Lucille Lortel Award, Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and Drama League Award for his acclaimed performance in Stephen Karam’s SONS OF THE PROPHET. As a vocalist, Santino has performed in jazz venues such as Lincoln Center’s Appel Room and Birdland. As an orchestra soloist, Santino has sung at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and other top tier venues.

Tracy Lynn Olivera SIGNATURE: Signature VinylAssassinsA Little Night Music (Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical), TitanicThe FixGypsyCrossingCompanyHello, Dolly! (Ford’s Theatre co-production); The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasBrother RussiaThe HollowThe Boy Detective FailsLes Misérables; ACE; The Happy Time; Merrily We Roll Along; AllegroFolliesSide Show; Sweeney Todd. BROADWAY: Ragtime (2009 revival). DC AREA: Kennedy Center: RagtimeSunday in the Park…, Passion, Merrily We Roll Along; Arena Stage: Fiddler on the Roof, Damn Yankees; Shakespeare Theatre: Candide; Ford’s Theatre: Ragtime110 in the Shade (Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical); Olney Theatre: MatildaOn the Town; Studio Theatre: Bachelorette; Imagination Stage: Cinderella. REGIONAL: Goodman Theatre: Candide. RECORDINGS: Because (solo LP).

Nova Y. Payton SIGNATURE: AssassinsBlackbeardAin’t Misbehavin’Jelly’s Last JamLa Cage aux FollesDinerDefying Gravity: Making of a SuperNOVA, Dreamgirls, The Best Little Whorehouse…XanaduHairspray. TOUR: 3 Mo’ DivasSmokey Joe’s Café. DC AREA: Round House: Caroline, or Change; Shakespeare Theatre: The Amen CornerKiss Me, Kate; Imagination Stage: A Year with Frog and Toad; Ford’s Theatre: RagtimeFreedom’s Song; Olney Theatre: Godspell; Arena Stage: NewsiesSmokey Joe’s Cafe; Kennedy Center: How To Succeed…, Bye, Bye Birdie. REGIONAL: The 5th: Man of La Mancha, A Night with Janis Joplin; Milwaukee Rep: Dreamgirls; Prince Music Theatre: Dreamgirls 

Bobby Smith SIGNATURE: Midnight at The Never GetAssassinsGrand HotelPassionLight YearsA Little Night MusicTitanicSimply SondheimCompanyMidwestern GothicRoad Show, Threepenny OperaDisney’s Freaky Friday, La Cage aux Folles (Helen Hayes Award), Spin (Helen Hayes Award). BROADWAY: Crazy for You. OFF-BROADWAY: Forever PlaidThe World Goes ‘RoundOf Thee I Sing. NATIONAL TOURS: Brigadoon, The World Goes ‘Round. STUDIO THEATER: A Class ActThe Long Christmas Ride HomeCaroline, or ChangeGrey Gardens; Reefer MadnessJerry Springer: The Opera; FORD’S THEATREElmer GantryLiberty Smith1776, A Christmas Carol, Violet; METROSTAGE: Girl in the Goldfish BowlMusical of Musicals, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (Helen Hayes Award). AWARDS: 2018 Anderson/Hopkins award.


An award-winning comedienne, actress, and author, Carol Burnett is one of America’s most cherished entertainers. With a career spanning seven decades, Ms. Burnett is widely recognized for her performances on television, film, and Broadway, most notably her groundbreaking work on The Carol Burnett Show. Named in 2007 by TIME magazine as one of the “100 Best Television Shows of All Time,” The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 years, averaged 30 million viewers per week, and received 25 Emmy Awards, making it one of the most decorated and best-loved shows in television history.

Throughout her career, Ms. Burnett’s work has been honored with multiple Emmy, Golden Globe, and People’s Choice Awards, the Horatio Alger Award, an Ace Award, a Peabody Award, and a Grammy Award. Her peers have celebrated her outstanding legacy with two Lifetime Achievement Awards—one from the Screen Actors Guild in 2016, and another from the Golden Globes in 2019. Her contributions to American culture have been honored on the national level through the Kennedy Center Honors (2003), the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (2013), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005).

Born in San Antonio, Texas in 1933, Ms. Burnett was raised in Hollywood by her mother and grandmother. After receiving an anonymous donation of $50 to pay her college tuition, Ms. Burnett enrolled at UCLA and discovered acting while studying journalism.

Following college, she moved to New York City where she soon teamed up with other aspiring actors, writers, and composers to stage a musical review. The performance led to several summer stock offers as well as steady work on the Winchell-Mahoney Show. Following appearances on The Jack Paar Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, Ms. Burnett became a permanent cast member on The Garry Moore Show in 1959 and landed the lead role of Princess Winifred in the original Broadway production of Once Upon a Mattress, for which she received her first Tony Award nomination.

While in New York, Ms. Burnett became close friends with Julie Andrews, appearing with her in the Emmy-winning television special, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall. Noticing her now-proven star power, CBS signed Ms. Burnett to a 10-year contract, launching The Carol Burnett Show in 1967. With a talented ensemble featuring Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner, and guest stars including such luminaries as Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart, Gloria Swanson, Ronald Reagan, Betty White, Cher, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, Rock Hudson, Dick Van Dyke, Alan Alda, and many, many more, the show quickly became a hit and ran until 1978.

Following the success of The Carol Burnett Show, Ms. Burnett produced and starred in several television specials, working with performers including Beverly Sills, Dolly Parton, and Julie Andrews. She also appeared as a guest star on numerous series, including Glee, Hot in Cleveland, Hawaii 5-0, and Law and Order: SVU. In 2005, Ms. Burnett returned to her Once Upon a Mattress roots, appearing in a television special of the musical as the evil Queen Aggravain.

Ms. Burnett’s numerous film credits include Miss Hannigan in Annie, directed by John Huston; Noises Off, directed by Peter Bogdanovich; A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman; and Four Seasons, directed by Alan Alda. On Broadway, she appeared in Fade Out, Fade In; Stephen Sondheim’s musical revue Putting It Together; and Moon Over Buffalo, for which she received a second Tony Award nomination. She recently starred in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters (2014), opposite Brian Dennehy.

Beyond her illustrious acting career, Ms. Burnett is also an accomplished writer. Her books include the New York Times bestsellers One More TimeThis Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story, and In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in The Sandbox, which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. With her daughter Carrie Hamilton, she wrote the play Hollywood Arms, which premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2002 before transferring to Broadway under the direction of the legendary Hal Prince. Sadly, Carrie passed away due to complications from lung cancer several months prior to the premiere.

Ms. Burnett’s recent projects include the much-anticipated release of the first five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show on DVD, the development of Sunrise in Memphis, a feature film based on an unfinished story by her late daughter Carrie, the 50th anniversary special of The Carol Burnett Show, which aired on CBS last December, and a new family-friendly Netflix show, A Little Help with Carol Burnett.

As a passionate supporter of the arts and education, she has endowed several scholarships, including the Carol Burnett Musical Theatre Competition at her alma mater, UCLA, and established the Carrie Hamilton Foundation to honor her daughter’s memory.


In 2009, Signature Theatre inaugurated the Stephen Sondheim Award in recognition of the importance of Mr. Sondheim’s work to Signature and to theater in general. Previous award recipients have included Angela Lansbury (2010), Bernadette Peters (2011), Patti LuPone (2012), Harold “Hal” Prince (2013), Jonathan Tunick (2014), James Lapine (2015), John Weidman (2016), Sir Cameron Mackintosh (2017), John Kander (2018) and Audra McDonald (2019).

The award, established in 2009, is given to an individual for his or her career contributions to the American Musical Theatre along with interpreting, supporting, or collaborating on works by Sondheim. To date, Signature has presented 31 Stephen Sondheim productions, more than any other theater in the United States.


Signature Theatre is a Tony Award®-winning regional theater that broadens and brightens the region’s cultural landscape with its bold productions of challenging new and established works and engaging education and outreach programs. Founded in 1989 by Eric Schaeffer and Donna Migliaccio, and currently under the leadership of Managing Director Maggie Boland and Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner, musical theater is Signature’s “signature,” and the Theatre is renowned for its definitive Sondheim productions, inventive adaptations of overlooked or forgotten works, and investment in fresh new projects. Signature combines Broadway-caliber productions with intimate playing spaces and aims to be a leading force in U.S. musical theater.

Since its inception, the Theatre has produced 59 world premiere works—including 19 new musical commissions. Signature opens its doors to more than 100,000 people annually from the Washington, DC region and beyond and reaches more than 10,000 students every year through its innovative education programs, including the award-winning initiative Signature in the Schools. Signature has won 134 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the Washington, DC region’s professional theater and has been honored with 452 nominations.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here