Rehearsals begin in Manhattan July 10 for Seussical, the new family-friendly musical from the Ragtime creators, who pull together characters and elements of stories created by Dr. Seuss to create an original show.
Theatrical clown David Shiner will wear the candy-cane striped chapeau of The Cat in the Hat, Janine LaManna will play Gertrude McFuzz and Kevin Chamberlin will be Horton the elephant when Seussical appears at the Colonial Theatre in Boston for a pre-Broadway tryout Aug. 27-Sept. 17.
Chamberlin, a Tony Award nominee for Dirty Blonde, left that hit show last week to recreate Horton, his role Seussical workshops.
Also part of the 29-member cast is Michele Pawk (Mayzie) and Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Jo Jo). The book and score are by Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). Ragtime director Frank Galati helms. Kathleen Marshall (former artistic director of Encores!) is the Seussical choreographer.
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 a dramatic hybrid. Broadway previews begin Oct. 15 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, with an opening set for Nov. 9 (a previous opening of Nov. 16 had been mentioned). Tickets for both east-coast engagements went on sale June 18. For ticket information, call (212) 307-4100 for New York or (616) 931-2787 for sales at the Colonial Theatre in Boston.
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).
Designers are Eugene Lee (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting), Jonathan Deans (sound). David Holcenberg is music director, David Chase is dance arranger, Doug Besterman is orchestrator.
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.
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 Theodor [sic] Geisel (the good doctor's real name).
Among Seuss' 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.
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.