Whither Mrs. Santa Claus? Still Being Written, in Hope of 2006 Stage Bow

News   Whither Mrs. Santa Claus? Still Being Written, in Hope of 2006 Stage Bow Librettist Mark Saltzman and composer-lyricist Jerry Herman are working toward completing a draft of the stage show Mrs. Santa Claus, The Musical in the hope a theatre or producer will pick it up for a seasonal run in 2006.

With the budding success of White Christmas in three regional productions this year, it's thought the market is ripe for another tuneful holiday show that could become a franchise. The writers are talking to interested parties, Saltzman told Playbill.com in recent weeks.

Herman (Mame, Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles) is working on one new song for the show, based on his and Saltzman's 1996 TV movie musical that starred Angela Lansbury.

"There are regional theatres all over the country that are dying for new material," Herman previously said. "I think that'll fill a lot of theatres."

The librettist also said he has identified a place within the tale to reinsert a song that had been cut from the TV movie. It's a quartet for Irish cops called "Forever and a Day."

The challenge of putting the movie on stage, the writers said, is how do you have a flying sleigh and reindeer? And will the cost of special effects prevent it from being widely producible? Prior to getting it published for licensing, the writers are aiming Mrs. Santa Claus, The Musical at producers and artistic directors who may wish to give the family-friendly, multicultural show a major, bells-and-whistles test production.

"We want to present it to theatre owners and the road people, and see if they want to do it as a tour or as individual productions," Herman previously said.

Saltzman's Tin Pan Alley Rag, a musical about the ragtime-era Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin, is being revised to resurface at Maltz Jupiter Theatre, the Florida not-for-profit, in early 2006. It is being shepherded toward New York by commercial producer Roger Hess. Saltzman also penned book and lyrics for the Neapolitan-flavored Romeo and Bernadette, seen at Paper Mill Playhouse and Coconut Grove Playhouse. His work also includes Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood, a play about George Bernard Shaw's brief visit to L.A. In the 1930s (he stayed for three hours and had enough, Saltzman said).

Saltzman said that due to necessary production lead time, any first staging of Mrs. Santa Claus wouldn't be able to appear until late 2006, at earliest.

There was talk in 2003 that Mrs. Santa Claus might appear as a Christmas pantomime in London in 2004, but that plan never materialized. Saltzman admitted that he would like to see Mrs. Santa Claus become "an American Christmas Carol," referring to the perennial Dickens hit in American theatres.

Ever since it first aired in 1996, the original TV musical starring Angela Lansbury as the liberation-hungry wife of Kris Kringle, has prompted speculation (mostly from fans) about its viability as a stage property. Screen-to-stage transfers are not rare: Look at Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Fame and Footloose.

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In the story (which is an original one, created by Saltzman), Mrs. Santa Claus steals Santa's sleigh in an effort to live a little (she's tired of being "the invisible wife" and wants "a change in her life"). Mrs. Claus crash-lands in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 19th century, where she gets mixed up with immigrant lovers Marcello and Sadie (Italian boy meets Jewish girl), suffragists and an evil toymaker named Tavish, who is running a sweatshop where kids are overworked. (The contrast with the happy elf workers in the North Pole is clear, said Saltzman, and the kids and elves would likely be double-cast on stage. In the movie, Michael Jeter played the head elf.)

The score from composer-lyricist Herman was released on a soundtrack, though it isn't what some would call a full-length musical theatre score.

"It was done for television, with all those commercials," Herman said, "so we had to be frugal about how much we put into it."

The score includes "Avenue A," "Whistle" and the title song, among others. The CD is no longer in print.

Saltzman said the new draft pushes the lovers Marcello and Sadie to the forefront more than the film. There are multiple plots going on in the movie musical.

The TV movie is available on DVD.