Andrea Martin is playing The Cat in the Hat in two of three Livent/Pace/SFX Entertainment presentations of the new Lynn Ahrens Stephen Flaherty musical, The Seussical, Aug. 20-21, in Toronto.
The culmination of rehearsals in a workshop that began July 26 in the city where Livent hits Fosse, Show Boat and Ragtime were nurtured, the presentations will let the producers see the progress, strengths and weaknesses of this original conception. Seussical draws on characters and wild worlds created by children's author Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodore Geisel. The first workshop presentation was Aug. 19.
One workshop insider told Playbill On-Line: "It's going to be a big surprise to a lot of people when they see it. You really don't have to know a lot about the Seuss books to enjoy it. It's quite an adult piece, even though kids will get a kick out of it. It's a real testament to the universality of Theodore Geisel's writing. And the score is really wild."
Livent officials have said in the past that 2000 is the likely year for The Seussical to debut, perhaps in one of the Pace/Livent out-of town venues, prior to New York City.
The cast, overseen by director Frank Galati, includes American actors are Jeffrey Broadhurst, Kevin Chamberlin, Joyce Chittick, Erick Devine, Jason Fuchs, Justin Greer, Jeffrey Hankinson, Ann Harada, Amy Heggins, Eddie Korbich, Catrice Joseph, Janine Lamanna, David Lowenstein, Michelle O'Steen, Michele Pawk, Alice Playten, Cynthia Sophiea, Sharon Wilkins, Eric Jordan Young, Stuart Zagnit. Canadian actors are Troy Adams, Diane Coatsworth, Heidi Ford, Susan Henley, Taborah Johnson, Denis Lupien, Avery Saltzman, and Jay Turvey. David Holcenberg is musical director, Kathleen Marshall is choreographer, Rob Ashford is assistant choreographer, David Chase is doing dance arrangements, Jeff Markowitz is stage Manager.
Horton the Elephant and other creatures conjured by the late children's author Dr. Seuss are expected to be part of the family-friendly musical fantasia.
Martin, of Ahrens and Flaherty's My Favorite Year and television's "SCTV," took over the narrator Cat role from the show's co-conceiver, Eric Idle, who played the part in the May 14 New York City reading.
Galati, Ahrens and Flaherty have been busy this summer: They also oversaw the creation of the new, scaled-down Pace national tour of Ragtime, which began in Houston Aug. 3-15 (previews started July 31).
"New music" is central to Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Ragtime score, and new music from the Tony Award-winning lyricist and composer was heard in New York City May 14, 1999, when The Seussical got its first-draft readings.
The songwriting team, director Galati and invited guests, including Livent management, were on hand to see what collaborators Ahrens, Flaherty and co-conceiver Eric Idle cooked up using ingredients from the world of Dr. Seuss. Livent bought musical theatre rights to characters and some situations created by the late Geisel.
Rehearsals toward the two readings began May 3. These were considered the first reads of the first draft, with a fuller August 1999 workshop helmed by Galati (Ragtime, The Grapes of Wrath) anticipated.
The company of 21 included Idle (an alum of "Monty Python's Flying Circus"), Janine LaManna (Ragtime, Chicago), Ruth Williamson (Little Me), Madeleine Doherty (Les Miserables), Victor Trent Cook (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Kevin Chamberlin (Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, My Favorite Year), Michelle Pawk (Cabaret), Erick Devine (Ragtime), Sharon Wilkins (The Life), Eric Jordan Young, David Garrison (Titanic, Over & Over), Ann Harada, Lovette George, Stuart Zagnit, Alice Playten (Spoils of War, Henry, Sweet Henry), Leon Williams, Jason Fuchs, Eddie Korbich (Show Boat, Assassins), Joy Hermalyn and David Lowenstein (1776).
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.
The company has since been taken over by SFX Entertainment, which also owns Pace Theatricals. The final week of Seussical workshops coincided with a slew of layoffs at Livent in anticipation of the closing of the sale to SFX. The closing is expected around Aug. 24-25.
Among Livent's shows are the current Broadway and touring productions of Ragtime, plus The Kiss of the Spider Woman, the Harold Prince-directed Show Boat and Candide, as well as Barrymore, Parade and the current Broadway smash, Fosse.