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Weisslers, SFX team to produce ‘Seussical’

Dr. Seuss musical could cost between $5 mil and $7 mil

NEW YORK — Barry and Fran Weissler have joined SFX Entertainment Inc. as producers of “The Seussical,” a new musical based on the children’s stories of Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

“We’re going forward to co-produce the production together,” said Miles Wilkin, chairman and CEO of Pace Theatrical Group Inc.

“We have a partnership,” said Barry Weissler.

Pace staged a workshop production of the former Livent musical on Aug. 19-21 at the MacMillan Theatre in Toronto. Weissler was one of many Gotham-based producers who made the trek north. After the $750,000 three-day workshop, Pace acquired the musical, which is not part of SFX’s deal to acquire Livent’s assets. SFX is Pace’s parent company.

“The Seussical” was one of Garth Drabinsky’s projects prior to his ouster from Livent and involves most of the “Ragtime” team, with music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Flaherty and Ahrens, and direction by Frank Galati.

Wilkin and Weissler said that negotiations are under way to complete the cast for the Broadway production, and the actors who participated in the workshop production have the inside track. Headliners in Toronto included Andrea Martin as the Cat in the Hat and Kevin Chamberlin as Horton the elephant. Kathleen Marshall choreographed the production.

Wilkin and Weissler outlined what they called their “ideal” production schedule: pre-production in the spring, rehearsals in June, a summer out-of-town tour, Broadway previews in late September and an October opening. Wilkin estimated that the tryout tour would involve one or two cities.

L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre is already booked for July and August with the Jujamcyn musical “The Night They Raided Minsky’s.” However, Gordon Davidson, artistic director at the Ahmanson, saw “The Seussical” in its workshop form and called it 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 told Daily Variety in August.

Money matters

As for what it will cost to stage “The Seussical” on Broadway, Weissler would only say that they were working on the budget. “It will be your normal Broadway musical capitalization.” In Toronto, estimates put it at between $5 million and $7 million.

The “Seussical” partnership of Pace/SFX with Barry and Fran Weissler, producers of the revival of “Chicago,” came as no surprise to legit insiders. “We’ve worked together 15 years and co-produced a half-dozen productions, as well as participated in another dozen,” Wilkin said. He mentioned the Broadway revivals of “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Gypsy” and “Grease.” “We were one of Barry and Fran’s larger investors in ‘Chicago,’ and they supported our productions of ‘Tommy’ and ‘Jekyll & Hyde.’ ”

Weissler joked, “Yes, I made him more money than he made me.”

(Mira Friedlander in Toronto contributed to this report.)