The possible casting of Rigby in the role originated by David Shiner at the Richard Rodgers Theatre has been one of the worst-kept secrets of recent weeks. Chat room users, internet theatre-news sites and others reported Rigby sightings at the Rodgers in March. By March 1, producers admitted they were in negotiations with the youthful former Olympic gymnast.
Rosie O'Donnell stepped into the role in January for a limited time and boosted sales as the striped-chapeau feline, and has said publicly she'd love to return to the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty tuner in spring. Rigby was in rehearsals when the casting was officially announced.
The musical draws on stories and characters created by Dr. Seuss, the late children's story writer and illustrator. The show is produced by SFX Theatrical Group, Barry and Fran Weissler and Universal Studios.
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Producers Barry and Fran Weissler have previously said they are seeking stars for the starless show — not only the Cat role, but in supporting roles.
Rigby brings her considerable acrobatic and dance skills to the project. The former Olympic gymnast has been a smash on Broadway and tour in the musical, Peter Pan, which asked her to sing, dance, fly, tumble and act her way through a musical fantasia suitable for family audiences (not unlike Seussical). Some of the more creative industry observers wonder if flying might be incorporated into her role in Seussical.
Production sources say producers are apparently still holding out hope that Rosie O'Donnell will make good on her public wish to return to the show in April or May, taking the show into the Tony Award nomination period of May and June.
Following a month's vacation, David Shiner, the show's original Cat in the Hat, returned to the Broadway company of Seussical, Feb. 14. After a Wednesday morning brushup rehearsal with the company, Shiner, the critically-acclaimed mime and movement artist last seen on Broadway in Fool Moon, re-joined the fantastical musical at the Valentine's Day matinee. Since Jan. 16, actress and TV personality Rosie O'Donnell played the Cat six shows per week, pumping life into the show's anemic Richard Rodgers Theatre box office. Her final performance was Feb. 10. The musical is considered an audience show rather than one for the critics, but those press scribes who grumbled about the show's lack of focus cheered O'Donnell's presence and personality as unifying for the sprawlingly-plotted story.
Shiner created the role in fall 2000, opening Nov. 30, narrating and hosting Ahrens and Flaherty's somewhat expressionistic tuner drawn from the characters and worlds created by Theodor Geisl.
Feb. 14 marked a new performance schedule for Seussical: Mondays and Tuesdays are now dark, two shows are presented Wednesdays, one show Thursdays and Fridays and two shows go up Saturdays and Sundays.
Lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty co-wrote the show's book, Frank Galati is credited with direction (though Rob Marshall came in as the show doctor) and Kathleen Marshall is choreographer. A cast album on the Decca Broadway label was released Feb. 6 (with Shiner as The Cat, of course).
The cast includes Janine LaManna as Gertrude McFuzz, Kevin Chamberlin as Horton the elephant, Michele Pawk as Mayzie La Bird, Anthony Blair Hall as Jo Jo). Also featured are Erick Devine (Ragtime), Alice Playten (Oliver!), Sharon Wilkins (The Life) and Stuart Zagnit (the Public's Wild Party). Also appearing are Shaun Amyot, Joyce Chittick (Cabaret), Jennifer Cody (MTC Wild Party), Natascia Diaz (Bright Lights, Big City), David Engel (Forever Plaid), Sarah Gettelfinger, Justin Greer (Annie Get Your Gun), Ann Harada (The Moment When), Jenny Hill, Catrice Joseph, Michelle Kittrell, Mary Ann Lamb (Fosse, Chicago), Darren Lee (Kiss Me, Kate), David Lowenstein, Monique Midgette, Casey Nicholaw (Saturday Night Fever), Tom Plotkin (Footloose), Devin Richards (Jesus Christ Superstar), William Ryall (Grand Hotel), Jerome Vivona (Kiss Me, Kate) and Eric Jordan Young (Ragtime). Bryan Batt (Saturday Night Live) is Shiner's standby.
Designers are Eugene Lee (set), William Ivey Long (costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting), Jonathan Deans (sound). Tony Walton also assisted with design duties when the show was in previews. David Holcenberg is music director, David Chase is dance arranger, Doug Besterman is orchestrator. Flaherty is vocal arranger.