Now close to five years in the making, Don Schlitz and Ken Ludwig's musical production, Tom Sawyer is moving closer to the Broadway stage. Scott Ellis will direct the project, which could open on Broadway in 2000-2001. Paul Gemignani will be Tom Sawyer's musical director.
In the past, producers Elizabeth Williams and Alan Carr were connected with the show. After Carr's death, Schlitz and Ludwig sought other support. Today, producers for the show include the Nederlanders and Edgar Dobie, who have recently asked another key player to come in.
"We have invited [Kennedy Center's] Larry Wilker to take a look and join us," Dobie told Playbill On-Line.
Wilker is out of the country on business until next week. A spokesperson for the Kennedy Center, who was not aware of the show, said his organization had "no official comment" on the production.
The connection to the Kennedy Center through Wilker has led to some serious consideration about the possibility of premiering the musical in Washington, DC, before bringing it to Broadway. If so, and if the producer's selection of a Washington theatre is based on preparing for Broadway by finding a venue equal in size to a suitable Broadway musical house, then Washington's National Theatre or one of the Kennedy Center Theatres could be serious options. "It's really very early at the moment," Dobie explained. "Jimmy Nederlander is the lead producer and I am his partner. We're in the process of securing the rights and we're in the early stages of production planning, just putting together all the pieces." With music and lyrics by award-winning songwriter Don Schlitz ("Forever and Ever Amen," "The Gambler" ), and book by Ken Ludwig ("Moon Over Buffalo"), much of the fundamental creative work on the show is basically ready, according to Schlitz.
"The material's all written," Schlitz told Playbill On-Line, "we're ready to go."
Schlitz' success as a country songwriter has earned him crossover respect in mainstream pop. He told Playbill On-Line that working in the theatre has opened an entirely new world for him.
"Ken, Scott and Paul have guided me through this whole process," Schlitz said, "and they've been so patient with me. Ken has given me a five-year intensive course in the theatre, and they've all been the best teachers." Schlitz' immersion in Broadway history also led to his embrace of Gotham and its traditions -- he is a new but devoted Yankee fan.
"I liked theatre right away," Schlitz said. "I came to the theatre late, but it became an obsessive avocation. Will it become a vocation? Maybe. But I think it will remain an avocation, which I think is more wonderful."
-- By Murdoch McBride