Producers for the new Don Schlitz-Ken Ludwig musical, Tom Sawyer have issued a statement reconfirming their plans to give the show a short tryout at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, CT. There had been reports that the show might skip New Haven and go directly to Broadway on April 3.
In a prepared statement, a production spokesperson said: “Because the new musical, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, has a set design created specifically for the Minskoff Theatre, the Broadway producers are working with the presenters in New Haven to come up with a different design solution for the pre-Broadway staging of Tom Sawyer at the Shubert Theater in New Haven. Originally it was planned to have one set for both the Shubert and the Minskoff, but now for physical and financial reasons it will not be possible to use the large Minskoff installation in New Haven.”
Shubert New Haven sources said the set's dimensions simply grew in the development process.
In the statement, producer James M. Nederlander also addressed the controversial rumors over the show’s schedule saying, "It has been suggested that we not play in New Haven, but this is totally unacceptable to us. We want the show at the Shubert in New Haven and it will be there."
Speculation about a possible cancellation of the New Haven tryout began a week ago. Typically, there can be any number of reasons for a tryout to be canceled. The most common being that the producers want to save money or the show is just not ready for a tryout and needs all the development and rehearsal it can get to make its Broadway opening. While tryout cancellations don’t necessarily spell disaster, they are often interpreted as an indication that things are still coming together. On a creative, and certainly more subjective level, there is reason to be optimistic about the show. While the composer and lyricist, Don Schlitz, is an unproven commodity on Broadway, he has repeatedly said he is committed to pursuing a new career in theatre and has impressed his colleagues by learning everything he can about it.
As reported earlier, Schlitz embraces the role of theatre newcomer, even though he is an entertainment veteran: Honored by the Amercian Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers as ASCAP's Country Songwriter of the Year for four consecutive years (1989-1991), Schlitz has written fifty Top Ten hits and twenty four Number One songs including the Grammy winning classic, "The Gambler." ASCAP's executive vice president—membership group Todd Brabec said that Schlitz ranks among ASCAP's top percentile of successful writers, irrespective of genre. "He is certainly one of our top writers, and he has had significant success with film and television coverage of his songs as well," Brabec told Playbill On-Line.
The Shubert New Haven appears keen on hosting the Tom Sawyer tryout. Robert Resnikoff, director of marketing and public relations at Shubert New Haven told Playbill On-Line that Schlitz made a promise to him during the June press conference there. “Don said, ‘Look, just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll be there,’” Resnikoff recalls. “In September we had a big kick off for ticket sales and there was a live radio broadcast scheduled from our lobby. Don Schlitz came up from Nashville and took a hotel room so he could be here at 7 AM with a guitar to play some of the show’s songs on the air. He was a little bleary eyed, mind you—but he was certainly here.”
Tom Sawyer starts previews at the Shubert New Haven on Feb. 27, 2001 and opens March 4. The subscription run goes through March 17. The show opens on Broadway at the Minskoff on April 26, albeit with a separate and slightly larger set.
Shubert New Haven tickets range from $28-$60. Various subscription rates are available for the theatre's full season. The Shubert Performing Arts Center is located at 247 College Street in New Haven, CT. For information call (203) 562-5666 or visit www.shubert.com.
—By Murdoch McBride