2019 Kleban Prize Winners (l to r): Shaina Taub, Charlie Sohne and Sarah Hammond.
The recipients of the 29th Annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre, a prestigious award for new groundbreaking names in musical theatre, have been announced. Sarah Hammond and Shaina Taub are tied winners in the Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist category, and Charlie Sohne was awarded Most Promising Musical Theatre Librettist. The 2019 prizes will be awarded on February 4 in a private invitation-only ceremony in New York.
The Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre is overseen by a panel of judges, all respected theatrical artists and administrators. For the 2019 awards, Tony-nominated actor Alison Fraser (The Secret Garden), Tony nominee composer-lyricist Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody) and Tony-nominated director Eric Schaeffer (Follies).
Established in 1988 under the will of Edward K. Kleban, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of A Chorus Line, The Kleban Foundation includes provisions for annual prizes for most promising lyricists and librettists in American musical theater. The prize both recognizes accomplished work by notable names in the musical theater industry as well as provides a well of support for future projects by awardees.
Sarah Hammond, tied winner for Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist, is both a playwright and a writer for musical theatre. Hammond wrote the book for String, which premiered at the Village Theater and also won the Richard Rodgers Award. She also wrote the book and lyrics for Pete the Cat for Theatreworks USA, which premiered Off-Broadway and played four national tours.
Hammond has received a seven-year residency at New Dramatists and has been honored with the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award, an Ars Nova Uncharted residency, and commissions from Broadway Across America and EST/Sloan. She is at work on a number of projects, including Wind-Up Girl (Ars Nova Uncharted; St. Louis Rep’s Ignite Festival), a musical in the works about philosopher René Descartes, and Jenny Talks to Aliens (EST/Sloan commission). Hammond holds an MFA in playwriting from the University of Iowa and studied musical theater writing at NYU.
Shaina Taub, tied winner for Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist, has been honored with the Jonathan Larson Grant, the Fred Ebb Award, the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award, and the ASCAP Lucille and Jack Yellen Award. Taub was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for her role as Mary in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Taub has appeared in her own musical adaptations performed at the Public Theater’s Delacorte in Central Park of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and As You Like It, which were commissioned and produced for the Public’s Public Works initiative. Both works are being performed regionally and globally, recently at London’s Young Vic.
Taub’s work has been showcased in Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Concert series and made her Carnegie Hall debut performing her work with the New York Pops. Taub is currently working on a musical about Alice Paul and American suffragettes and is writing lyrics for the upcoming Broadway-bound musical of The Devil Wears Prada with composer Sir Elton John.
Charlie Sohne, recipient of the Most Promising Musical Theatre Librettist, won the 2015 Jonathan Larson Award, ASCAP’s 2015 Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hart Award and the 2016 San Diego Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Original Score with composer Tim Rosser. Their work, The Boy Who Danced on Air (NAMT 2013), premiered at The Diversionary Theatre and was performed Off-Broadway at the Abingdon Theatre. The pair is currently working on a musical adaptation of the Libba Bray’s novel Beauty Queens, as well as a new work, Talk To Me, commissioned by New York City Children’s Theater. Sohne and composer Rosser were also 2014-2015 Dramatists Guild Fellows, as well as being members of other prestigious institutes.
The Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has awarded close to six million dollars over the past 29 years to 66 prestigious artists. Previous Kleban Prize winners include Lisa Kron (Fun Home), Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), and Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder).
“For nearly three decades, The Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of the theatre’s most distinctive honors,” said Tony Award winner Richard Maltby Jr. and President of the Kleban Foundation in a statement. “Ed Kleban recognized that theatrical wordsmiths had the hardest time supporting themselves while honing their craft, and so the Kleban Awards are specifically for librettists and lyricists. While other theater awards recognize the best of the past season, The Kleban Prize celebrates work yet to be done.”