By Kenneth Jones
16 Jun 2000
Theatrical clown David Shiner will indeed 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.
Playbill On-Line had previously reported that Shiner, a Tony Award recipient for Fool Moon, would star; on June 16 producers confirmed the complete casting (including Shiner), just in time for tickets to go on sale June 18.
Kevin Chamberlin (Horton), Janine LaManna (Gertrude McFuzz), Michele Pawk (Mayzie) and Andrew Keenan Bolger (Jo Jo) will lead the 29-member cast of the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical, which has a tryout at Boston's Colonial Theatre Aug. 27-Sept. 17. Broadway previews begin Oct. 15 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, with an opening set for Nov. 16.
Featured are Erick Devine (Ragtime), Eddie Korbich (Assassins), Alice Playten, 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).
Andrea Martin, who played the feline role in workshops of the turned down the fall Broadway production (which has a Boston tryout) in order to be with her family in Los Angeles. The producers then 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 best known to New York audiences for his fanciful, clowning collaboration with Bill Irwin, Fool Moon.
Ragtime director Frank Galati will helm the show, by co-librettists Ahrens (who also pens the lyrics) and co-librettist 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.
Ticket for both East Coast engagements go on sale June 18. Call (212) 307-4100 for New York or (616) 931-2787 for sales at the Colonial Theatre in Boston.
A full page ad for the tuner is expected to appear in the Sunday New York Times. The image shows a city street, an open manhole, and a gloved hand thrusting the signature red-and-white top hat from below.
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, Barry & Fran Weissler and Universal Studios 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, 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.
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.
Designers are Eugene Lee (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting), Jonathan Deans (sound).