In order to implement changes being made in rehearsals, Seussical, the new musical inspired by the works of Dr. Seuss, will begin previews 2 PM Nov. 1, two weeks later than originally planned.
The opening of the tuner by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (who are co-librettists and, respectively, lyricist and composer) will be Nov. 30 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The show had various first-preview dates of Oct. 18, 29 and 30.
In recent weeks, the director-choreographer Rob Marshall was engaged to "lend an additional pair of eyes" to the aborning new musical that borrows stories and characters from the many books written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel, whose pen name was Dr. Seuss.
Nervous producers Barry and Fran Weissler, SFX Theatrical Group and Universal Studios brought Marshall in for his advice after the production, directed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Marshall's sister, Kathleen Marshall, got mixed-to-negative reviews in its September Boston tryout. *
Seussical choreographer Kathleen Marshall, who remains with the show, as does director Frank Galati.
In the time-honored tradition of "show doctors" who quietly offer advice about still-forming work, it is thought that Marshall is assessing all aspects of the show.
Lyricist Ahrens and composer Flaherty, the Tony Award winning songwriting team of Ragtime, share book credit on the musical, the concept of which was cooked up in collaboration with Eric Idle, of "Monty Python" fame.
The show got mixed-to-unfriendly reviews in Boston (particularly from critic Ed Siegel of The Boston Globe) after its opening there Sept. 6. Previews began Aug. 27 and performances were originally to go to Sept. 17, but the two-week extension was announced. The show pulled out of Boston Sept. 24, a week earlier than the extension promised.
Coinciding with the first preview in Beantown, costume designer Catherine Zuber (Lincoln Center's Twelfth Night) taken off the project. William Ivey Long (The Music Man) will be Zuber's successor. His task was daunting: Creating costumes for a cartoon world — amounting to some 200 costume changes — in time for the Oct. 18 first preview. Zuber's work was seen in Boston.
Director Frank Galati defined the show for theatrical press during an Aug. 9 "open rehearsal" by cautioning that the show is not a revue and it is not an anthology of the works of the late Theodor S. Geisel, who took the pen name Dr. Seuss.
Galati, 56, called it "a contemporary re-imagining" of the tales and characters, including Horton the Elephant, the people of Whoville, the Grinch, the Wickersham Brothers, the Lorax and others.
The creators, co-librettists Ahrens and Flaherty, who respectively also contribute lyrics and music, had access to most of the stories and characters created by the limerick-happy Seuss, whose playful verse bends English into sweet pretzels of rhyme and wonderment. They co conceived the piece with Eric Idle, of "Monty Python" fame, who is no longer actively attached to the project, which was begun several years ago by Garth Drabinsky at Livent.
Rehearsals began in Manhattan July 10 for Seussical. Theatrical clown David Shiner (Fool Moon) will wear the candy-cane striped chapeau of The Cat in the Hat, Janine LaManna will play Gertrude McFuzz and Kevin Chamberlin will be Horton the elephant when Seussical.
Chamberlin, a Tony Award nominee for Dirty Blonde, left that hit show in early July to recreate Horton, his role Seussical workshops.
Featured are Erick Devine (Ragtime), Eddie Korbich (Assassins), 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).
Designers are Eugene Lee (set), William Ivey Long (who replaced Catherine Zuber after Boston), Natasha Katz (lighting), Jonathan Deans (sound). David Holcenberg is music director, David Chase is dance arranger, Doug Besterman is orchestrator. Flaherty is vocal arranger.
It was Dr. Seuss who wrote, "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the THINKS you can think up, if only you try."
At an Aug. 9 gathering, Ahrens told Playbill On-Line: "He's a great poet, he's a lyricist. To honor his work and to sort of make it my own I took his words as a leaping off point for where we wanted to take the show. It's very different than the books in many ways, but I think that the language is synchronous. His widow [Audrey Geisel] came to see the workshop up in Toronto and she told me she couldn't tell where his words ended and mine began, which was wonderful."
Did Ahrens, like Dr. Seuss, create words?
"Absolutely!" she said. "Whenever you come to the point when you need a good rhyme, and there's no good rhymes in the dictionary, you make one up. It's fabulous."
And unlike her previous effort with Flaherty and Galati, Ragtime, she was able to plunder all the lip-curling "oose" rhymes in the universe, because "oose" rhymes with "Seuss." "Mother Goose" was one such rhyme heard in the Aug. 9 studio excerpts.
"I am almost at the end of my 'oose' rhymes, and I don't know what's next..." said Ahrens.
Early in the process of the show, when the project was still under the umbrella of the now-defunct Livent, comic actor-writer Eric Idle, Ahrens and Flaherty pounded out ideas about what the project should or could be. Idle has co-conceiver credit but not book credit.
Ahrens said, "We juggled and talked and decided who the main characters were; it was a boiling down. We knew that 'Horton Hears a Who' and the Horton stories were gonna be the main gist of it because there was so much stuff thrown in there: There was a big world, a little world, a child, a romance, all sorts of things."
Among Seuss' famous stories are "Green Eggs and Ham," "Horton Hears a Who," "The Cat in the Hat," "The Lorax," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Sneetches," "McElligot's Pool," "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," "Yertle the Turtle," and more.
Shiner, a German resident for years, was born in the U.S. but began his performing career about 20 years ago on the streets of Paris, Rome and London. He performed in the German National and Swiss National circuses. In between gigs would tour in a two-man show with partner Rene Bazinet. He has performed in North America with Cirque de Soleil, in Nouvelle Experience.
In the 1998-99 Broadway season, Irwin, Shiner created Fool Moon, and evening of clowning which also featured the Red Clay Ramblers. The show was honored with a Special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Achievement.
In various stages of the show's development, the show was called The Seussical and Seussical the Musical. It has now been shortened to, simply, Seussical, although the show's logo will read Seussical the Musical.
The show is set in and around Horton's home, the Jungle of Nool. The Cat in the Hat is a kind of tour guide. Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, the folks of Whoville, The Lorax, The Grinch, and others sing about home, love, family, loss and imagination — all "the 'thinks' you can think."
Tickets for the Broadway engagements are now on sale. Call (212) 307-4100.