Theatrical clown David Shiner may be slipping into the candy-cane striped chapeau of The Cat in the Hat in Seussical, the new family-friendly Broadway musical from the creators of Ragtime.
A member of the production team told Playbill On-Line that after Andrea Martin declined the role in the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical in order to be with her family in Los Angeles, the producers looked toward a vaudeville-type performer who could move in the wildly playful style the show demanded. Shiner, whose work has been seen internationally in street theatre and circuses, is a Special Tony Award recipient for his collaboration with Bill Irwin, Fool Moon.
No official announcement about Shiner has been made, and negotiations are apparently ongoing. Shiner's name has been mentioned on other theatre websites and producers' interest in him has been an open secret.
Seussical draws on the worlds and characters created by the late kid lit writer, Dr. Seuss. A tryout plays Boston's Colonial Theatre Aug. 27-Sept. 17 prior to a first Broadway preview Oct. 15 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The opening is set for Nov. 16.
Ragtime director Frank Galati will helm the show, by co-librettists Lynn Ahrens (who also pens the lyrics) and co-librettist Stephen Flaherty (who writes the music). Eric Idle, of the TV's "Monty Python," co-conceived the show, which brings together Dr. Seuss characters who have never met before, to create an original hybrid. Kevin Chamberlin, a recent Tony Award nominee for Dirty Blonde, will play Horton the Elephant.
The buzz following workshops (which included Martin, Chamberlin, Janine LaManna, Michele Pawk, Stuart Zagnit, Eddie Korbich and others) echoed loudly and hopes are high among producers SFX Theatrical Group and Barry and Fran Weissler that Seussical will be a hit among today's kids and the adults who grew up with the famous wordplay of author Theodore Geisel (the good doctor's real name).
Among his famous stories are "Green Eggs and Ham," "Horton Hears a Who," "The Cat in the Hat," "The Lorax," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and more.
Shiner 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.
Kathleen Marshall (former artistic director of Encores!) is the Seussical choreographer.
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 apparently read Seussical the Musical.
The show, set in and around Horton's home, the Jungle of Nool, is said to include elements and characters from the Dr. Seuss catalogue, creating an expansive world where The Cat in the Hat is a kind of tour guide. Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, The Lorax and others sing about home, love, family, loss and imagination -- all "the thinks you can think."
The score is said to overflow with equal parts show-tune, R&B, rock 'n' roll and heart. Some who viewed the previews called Seussical a conceptual musical rather than traditional book show.
Martin is said to have brought a "circusy" performance quality (reminiscent of her wild TV sketch comedy) to the role of The Cat, a character generally thought to have been male. If circusy is the goal, Shiner is no stranger to that world.