Director Gabriel Barre has been working with composer Kander, librettist Stein and lyricist Ebb for the past year. Barre (who staged Summer of '42, Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party and will helm Frank Wildhorn's Camille Claudel this summer for Goodspeed Musicals) has conceived Skin of Our Teeth with a multi-racial, multi-ethnic company to reflect the conceit of the Thornton Wilder source material: To express the history, variety and resilience of human beings.
Joining Tony Award-winner McDonald (Master Class, Ragtime, Carousel) in the reading are Sara Ramirez (A Class Act), LaChanze (Once On This Island), Mark Jacoby (Show Boat, Ragtime) and others. Patrick Vaccariello (Cabaret, Gypsy) is musical director.
Producers David Brown and Marty Bell hope to launch their production in the coming season at a not-for-profit theatre, prior to Broadway. Composer Kander told Playbill On-Line in February 2003 that a demo and new version of the show had been completed.
The material was first seen in 1999 at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, under the direction of Eric Schaeffer. In that earlier version, a new character was written and the collaborators later said they made a mistake pulling away from the Pulitzer Prize-winning source material. They are back on track, Stein told Playbill On-Line in fall 2002.
Sabina (to be played in the reading by Sara Ramirez) is the maid and narrator in the 1942 play. In Wilder's allegory for human resilience, the Antrobus family survives disasters and dramatic changes of Biblical proportions. After the 1999 regional run, the writers went back to the drawing board and in spring 2002 presented a Barre-directed reading at Manhattan Theatre Club. "We were all very happy with the reading," Stein previously told Playbill On-Line.
"We changed the name to something very original," Stein quipped. "We call it Skin of Our Teeth, the Musical, without the original 'the.' People say that's what [the show] is anyway, so I said, 'The hell with it!'"
Stein said, "The Virginia version was — I hate to use the word 'fiasco' — but I think it was badly mishandled. Characters were added which I felt were unnecessary. It just didn't work properly, but we saw what was wrong, and I think we fixed it. We based it on a damn good play. I made a lot of changes, and the third act of the play practically doesn't exist in the musical. Basically, the line of the play, we have kept. And the three major characters we have kept intact. We made the changes that will improve it for a contemporary audience. It has a much more contemporary feel than the play."
Also in the 1999 company were Linda Emond (Mrs. Antrobus), David Garrison (Mr. Antrobus), Megan Lawrence (Gladys), Jim Newman (Henry), Mario Cantone (Bob), Sharon Wilkins (Fortune Teller), Lawrence Redmond (Socrates), Hugh Nees (Homer), Thomas Adrian Simpson (Moses), Bruce Nelson (Jesus), Richard Pelzman (Mammoth), Karl Christian, Kenneth J. Ewing Jr., Daniel Felton, Jason Gilbert, Marc Oka, R. Scott Thompson, Johanna Gerry, Erika Lynn Rupli, Jennifer Swiderski.
Over & Over had a reading in spring 1998 in New York City under Schaeffer's direction, with Michele Pawk as Sabina. Bernadette Peters played Sabina in an earlier reading, not associated with Signature.