The colorful population of the imagination of Dr. Seuss will sing May 3-14 as The Seussical -- the new Livent-produced musical -- gets a preliminary reading.
This first read of the early draft of the show, drawing on the famous characters of the beloved children's verse writer, will be overseen by co conceivers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (the Tony Award-winning lyricist and composer of Ragtime) and Eric Idle. Idle is expected to perform a role, perhaps the famous Cat in the Hat. Frank Galati (Ragtime) is set to direct the future show.
A fuller workshop in August 1999 with Galati helming would be the next likely step. 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.
Among those expected to be part of the rehearsals and reading are Janine LaManna (Ragtime, Chicago), Ruth Williamson (Little Me), Madeleine Doherty (Les Miserables), Tracy Nicole Chapman (The Lion King) and Victor Trent Cook (Smokey Joe's Cafe).
* Playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You) was previously mentioned 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.
Livent acquired the musical stage rights to the characters of Dr. Seuss, the pseudonym for the late Theodore Geisel. Audrey Geisel, widow of the writer, was actively involved in arranging the rights with Livent.
Ahrens and Flaherty's previous credits include My Favorite Year, Lucky Stiff and Once On This Island. 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 will be 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, Barrymore and the current Broadway smash, Fosse.