"New music" is central to Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Ragtime, and new music from the Tony Award-winning lyricist and composer is what's being heard in New York City May 14, when The Seussical gets its first-draft readings.
The songwriting team, director Frank Galati and invited guests, including Livent management, will be on hand to see what collaborators Ahrens, Flaherty and co-conceiver Eric Idle have cooked up using ingredients from the world of children's writer Dr. Seuss. Livent bought musical theatre rights to characters and some situations created by the late Theodore Geisel, whose pen name was Dr. Seuss.
Rehearsals toward the two readings began May 3. These are considered the first reads of the first draft, with a fuller August 1999 workshop helmed by Galati (Ragtime, The Grapes of Wrath) anticipated.
The company of 21 includes Idle (an alum of "Monty Python's Flying Circus"), Janine LaManna (Ragtime, Chicago), Ruth Williamson (Little Me), Madeleine Doherty (Les Miserables), Tracy Nicole Chapman (The Lion King), Victor Trent Cook (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Kevin Chamberlin (Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, My Favorite Year), Michele Pawk (Cabaret), Erick Devine (Ragtime), Sharon Wilkins (The Life), Eric Jordan Young, David Garrison (Titanic, Over & Over), Ann Harada, Lovette George, Stuart Zagnit, Alice Playten (Spoils of War, Henry, Sweet Henry), Leon Williams, Jason Fuchs, Eddie Korbich (Show Boat, Assassins), Joy Hermalyn and David Lowenstein (1776).
Livent officials have said 2000 is the likely year for The Seussical to debut, perhaps in one of Livent's out-of-town venues, prior to New York City. *
Playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You) was previously mentioned as librettist for the project, but Idle, the comic actor and writer who was part of the British "Monty Python" troupe and TV series, was invited in to work with Ahrens and Flaherty (Once on This Island, Lucky Stiff, "Anastasia").
Ahrens is no stranger to writing songs for kids: Many of the most memorable segments of TV's "Schoolhouse Rock" are on her resume, including "Interplanet Janet."
"Ted Geisel wrote 39 books under the pen name of Dr. Seuss and the theme of imagination being our greatest ally in getting through the ups and downs of life is a strong theme for a musical," former Livent creative director Garth Drabinsky said, when the project was announced. He expected Suessical to include some of Dr. Seuss's favorite characters, such as the Grinch, Horton the Elephant, The Sneetches and Sam I Am. The Cat in the Hat has been mentioned as the show's guide into the world of Dr. Seuss.
Since Livent's financial troubles in fall 1998, when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the planned projects by the producer have gone unharmed, according to spokespeople. In effect, aborning Livent creative projects such as Pal Joey, The Sweet Smell of Success and The Seussical represent future capital for the company.
Among Livent's shows are the current Broadway and Chicago productions of Ragtime, plus The Kiss of the Spider Woman, the Harold Prince-directed Show Boat and Candide, as well as Barrymore, Parade and the current Broadway smash, Fosse.