Those few familiar with the antic performance of Andrea Martin as The Cat in the Hat in workshops and group-sales previews of Seussical the Musical were disheartened to hear news that she may not play the role when the new show dawns in Boston in September.
Insiders with the new Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical, drawing on the works and characters of children's author illustrator Dr. Seuss, said Martin does not want to commit to a long run that would keep her away from her family in Los Angeles.
"It's unclear at this time how much time she's able to commit," said a production spokesperson.
Martin has a son she would like to be near in Los Angeles, but producers generally like to have a star in a show for a year, sailing clear through Tony Award time.
The casting of comic actress Martin ("SCTV") was announced not from New York, but from the Boston office of SFX Theatrical Group, which is producing the tuner with Barry and Fran Weissler. The show will first appear at Boston's Colonial Theatre, which is booked by Broadway in Boston/SFX, Aug. 27-Sept. 17. Talks with Martin are apparently continuing. The actress is a critics' and industry favorite. She won a Supporting Actress (Musical) Tony Award in 1993 for Ahrens and Flaherty's My Favorite Year, and was nominated for the Tony in 1997 in the same category for playing The Old Woman in Hal Prince's Candide.
In the meantime, according to a production source, the producers have sought out the likes of Elayne Boosler, Roger Bart, B.D. Wong and others to perhaps fill the striped hat of the one of the great figures of children's literature.
Seussical the Musical has a book by Ahrens and Flaherty based on a conception of Ahrens, Flaherty and Eric Idle, and will be directed by Frank Galati (Ragtime) and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall (Encores!).
New York City performances are expected to begin in October at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
The show is said to include elements and characters from the Dr. Seuss catalogue, creating an expansive world where The Cat in the Hat is a kind of tour guide. Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, The Lorax and others sing about home, love, family, loss and imagination -- "the thinks you can think."
The score is said to overflow with equal parts show-tune and heart. Some who viewed the previews called Seussical a conceptual musical rather than traditional book show.
Martin is said to have brought a circus-y performance quality (reminiscent of her wild TV sketch comedy) to the role of The Cat, a character generally thought to have been male.