The show, billed as "an epic fable of Aesop," has book by Stephen Witkin, music and lyrics by David Spencer and draws from the novel by John Vornholt.
The reading performances are at the York Theatre Company's space at The Theatre at St. Peter's, 54th and Lexington in Manhattan. The York housed readings of the show in February 2003 and August 2002, as well.
This last of the creative team's developmental readings made possible in part by the remaining funds of their 2002 Richard Rodgers Development Award and enhancement from the Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation.
"For those who have attended previous incarnations, there are significant revisions and six new songs, so in many ways you'll be attending a new event," said collaborator David Spencer (Weird Romance).
To reserve your seats for The Fabulist, call the York Theatre's reading reservation hotline at (212) 935 5824, extension 24. The director is Sheryl Kaller, the musical director is Fred Lassen, and the cast includes Daniel Marcus (Urinetown) as Aesop; Ellie Mooney; Joel Higgins ("Silver Spoons," City of Angels); Valerie Fagan (Forbidden Broadway); Rob Gallagher (a veteran Broadway Javert of Les Miz); Susan Bigelow (New York City Opera's South Pacific; Raissa Katona (a Broadway Christine of The Phantom of the Opera); with Nicole Halmos, Craig Fols, Ed Romanoff, Geoff Scheer, Darin Phelps, Irwin Knauer, and Renae Morway.
According to the collaborators, "The musical's hero starts out as a hunchback, dwarf, mute slave in ancient Greece, who helps a sorceress in trouble ... for which he finds himself suddenly rewarded with the gifts of speech, insight, reason — and story — and a prophesy that if he can get himself free and reach the city of Delphi, truth will be his, and he will become a man complete. And thus begins an episodic quest in which his true love is an oracle, his best friend is a mercenary warrior, his wits are tested against the Sphinx, his resolve is tested against a tyrant king, his biggest obstacle is the god Apollo, and his eventually world-famous fables are the currency that allow him to trade up toward his freedom...and his destiny..."
Spencer previously told Playbill On-Line he came across the Vornholt novel while scanning the shelves of a Manhattan science fiction store. Vornholt and Spencer had a publisher in common (Spencer had penned an "Alien Nation" novel) and the composer-lyricist contacted Vornholt.
As it turns out, Vornholt originally conceived the story — a fanciful fictionalization of the life of the dwarf-slave, Aesop, a plaything of the gods — as a musical and even did some work on a script, in the west coast branch of a Lehman Engel musical theatre workshop.
"What attracted me to it was the notion of actually doing an epic fantasy fable about Aesop rather than an anthology with a framework," Spencer told Playbill On-Line. In other words, no one is reciting "The Tortoise and the Hare" from the stage. The show begins in 540 BC and is picaresque in its plotting, sending Aesop across great physical, emotional (and often comic) terrain as he fights to be free, to be heard and to overcome the influence of the gods.
Vornholt gave his OK to a musicalization by Spencer, known for penning lyrics and co-writing the book to Weird Romance and handling book and lyrics to the still-dormant musical, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (both shows have music by Alan Menken).
Spencer's credits also include music and lyrics to Theatreworks' family-audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables (with libretti by Rob Barron). He is also on the steering committee of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.