Bway-Bound 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T Flexing in Pre-Production

News   Bway-Bound 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T Flexing in Pre-Production New York City theatre projects always seem to come in waves. Not long ago, a slew of Arthur Miller plays and Frank Wildhorn musicals reached Broadway stages. Currently, political satires are hitting the boards, from Capitol Steps to High Infidelity. The quirkiest mini-trend, however, would have to be two Dr. Seuss-based Broadway musicals, albeit a season apart.

New York City theatre projects always seem to come in waves. Not long ago, a slew of Arthur Miller plays and Frank Wildhorn musicals reached Broadway stages. Currently, political satires are hitting the boards, from Capitol Steps to High Infidelity. The quirkiest mini-trend, however, would have to be two Dr. Seuss-based Broadway musicals, albeit a season apart.

The first, Seussical, opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre Nov. 30 and is now struggling to overcome middling reviews and the winter doldrums (with Rosie O'Donnell added to give the show a box-office push in January). But that's not the only Seuss show on the go for those in the know. As reported back in August and recently reconfirmed by general manager Frank Scardino (Dec. 27), a musical adaptation of the 1953 fantasy film, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," is in the works, with Simon Callow directing and Quinny Sacks, a West End and international ballet veteran, choreographing. David Fielding is the set and costume designer. Pat Collins is doing lighting, and Jonathan Deans will do sound design.

Composer-lyricist Glen Roven, an Emmy Award with a long career as a musical director and conductor as well as composer for theatre, film and television, including five major Walt Disney programs, has penned the music and lyrics, with Anthony Horowitz writing the book, based on Theodore Geisel's screenplay. A rehearsal draft is expected to be completed "in the next couple of weeks," Scardino said.

As reported in the summer, rehearsals for Dr. T are to start in New York July 2001, with an out-of-town tryout due in September 2001. The Broadway run, produced by Brian Brolly and Michael Jenkins, is targeting mid-October 2001, according to Scardino. No New York theatre has been booked for the show, but casting is expected in February, and a series of production meetings were held in November and December.

* Asked about the Seuss synergy, Scardino told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 16) that Dr. T "is a different kind of show from Seussical. Seussical takes bits and pieces from the source material, whereas Dr. T is very much based on the motion picture written by Theodore Geisel, and it has more human characters than other Seuss stories."

5,000 Fingers of Dr. T tells of a young boy who grudgingly takes piano lessons from Dr. Terwilliker. The youth fantasizes that the evil Dr. T "enlists 500 children to play the concerto he's written on the world's biggest piano," said Scardino. "Dr. T enrolls them in a huge music institute, and the boy tries to defeat his evil plan." In a subplot, "the boy's mom is single parent, and Dr. T. tries to romance his mother. But it's the friendly plumber from next door who's the hero who ends up with the mother and the boy."

Asked whether a musical involving all those children and an enormous piano might be unwieldy to produce, GM Scardino said, "The plan is to have children playing children, and there will be several children in the cast. We haven't capitalized yet, but we're expecting it to be in the usual range for a Broadway musical these days, $7-$10 million. It's not a mega- musical but not small either." The book and score are finished; casting is expected to begin shortly after the new year.

Director Callow is currently gearing up for a solo run in London's West End in a one-man play about Charles Dickens, written by biographer Peter Ackroyd. The Mystery of Charles Dickens, currently on a UK regional tour, opens Sept. 6 at the Comedy Theatre. Callow was last seen in the West End at the Savoy in 1997, where he recreated another famous writer in the one-man play, The Importance of Being Oscar, a celebration of Oscar Wilde. The actor's other recent stage credits include The Chimes at Midnight at Chichester Festival Theatre. More recently, he directed last year's poorly-received revival of the 1950s musical, The Pajama Game, starring Leslie Ash and John Hegley in the West End. Callow's film acting credits include "Shakespeare in Love," "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Howard's End" and "A Room with a View."

- By David Lefkowitz