TORONTO — Pace Theatrical Group staged a pricey workshop production of the ex-Livent musical “The Seussical” at the University of Toronto over the weekend, and a sizable contingent of Gotham industryites went north to check it out.
The $750,000, three-day workshop was intended to help Pace decide whether to invest the $5 million needed to acquire the musical, which is not part of Pace parent company SFX’s deal to acquire Livent’s assets. Production costs are estimated to be between $5 million to $7 million.
The event played to an invited audience of 600, mostly from south of the border, which included touring company execs, press agents and producers.
Sighted in the audience were Gotham-based producers Michael David, Barry Weissler and Jeffrey Seller; Shubert topper Gerald Schoenfeld; Broadway PR kingpins Adrian Bryan-Brown and Chris Boneau; L.A.’s Center Theater Group a.d. Gordon Davidson; Canadian producer David Mirvish; and execs from Cablevision, which has stepped up its interests in the legit sector with the acquisition of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
“The Seussical,” based on stories by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), was one of Garth Drabinsky’s projects prior to his ouster from Livent and involves the core team from “Ragtime,” with music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Flaherty and Ahrens, and direction by Frank Galati. Kathleen Marshall choreographed the exhibition production.
The workshop cast of 28 was led by Andrea Martin and included a mix of Canadian and Broadway talent.
According to Davidson, the workshop was a success
“I really like what Frank has done with it — it’s an imaginative and not overdone way of looking at the material,” Davidson said. “Lynn and Stephen’s work is good. It does need shaping, and the storytelling needs to be clearer. The strong stuff is very emotional and caring.”
Others who declared the workshop a hit included John Karastamatis, Mirvish Prods.’ director of marketing, and Boneau of Boneau/Bryan-Brown.
“I think it’s fun, imaginative and moving,” reported Boneau, who said he doesn’t know yet who will be representing the show.
On the critical side, there seems to be general agreement among the audience that shaping the show should also include cutting (the workshop came in at 2-1/2 hours), and another observation was that the story wasn’t sufficiently compelling.
The skeptical also worry that adults without children will not buy into this musical as they have with Broadway’s “The Lion King.”
“I’ve heard that a lot from some of the Broadway sages,” Davidson said, “but I feel if I can get connected — and I came in cold — then it should work with the thirtysomething crowd.”