Baby Case, composer-lyricist-librettist Michael Ogborn's theatrical musical fantasia on the subject of the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's infant son, has been in workshop rehearsals since June 11 at Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company and will be seen in free public performances there June 22-23.
The workshop prepares for a full staging that will open the Philadelphia nonprofit's 2001-2002 season this fall.
The Arden offered a two-week workshop and presentation of the aborning satirical musical in June 2000 under the direction of producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen, who is again helming the second workshop and the fall staging. Free public performances of Baby Case will be heard in the Arden's F. Otto Haas Theatre June 22-23. Reservations are suggested. Call (215) 922-8900.
Ogborn is a New York songwriter and Philadelphia native who saw theatrical tension and juicy characters in the media and public hysteria that followed the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby in New Jersey in 1932.
The show, which will eventually include film and projections, introduces servants, accomplices, the accused killer, his wife, news mogul William Randolph Hearst, commentator Walter Winchell, the police and others all singing ruefully and satirically about one of the great crimes of the 20th century. The musical raises questions and ultimately makes it unclear if justice was served. The Arden produces five mainstage shows and two children's shows per season on two "black box" stages, the F. Otto Haas Stage (360 seats) and the Arcadia Stage (175 seats), in the heart of Philadelphia's Old City. The company is committed to new works as well as classic and contemporary plays and musicals.
Baby Case had a 1998 reading in Manhattan with Jason Workman and Diane Fratantoni as the Lindberghs. Pieces of the show have been performed in the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.
The murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son, Charles Jr., caused a sensation in 1932. Anne Morrow Lindbergh is more central in the piece than Charles, Ogborn said, partly because a modern audience may be turned off by the aviator because he was sympathetic to the Nazis.
Composer-lyricist-librettist Ogborn had a Philly hit in the comic musical revue, Box Office of the Damned, produced by 1812 Productions at the Arden in 1999, but Baby Case is more ambitious, he told Playbill On Line.
"This is a more epic story," Ogborn said. "It's highly theatrical The prologue is the [trans-Atlantic] flight of Lindbergh, his marriage to Anne Morrow, and the birth of their child, Charles Jr. Scene One, the baby is kidnapped."
Through shifting points of view and different storytelling styles, Baby Case "explores the nation's fascination with every detail of the case, regardless of how bizarre or unfounded, from the crime to the execution of Bruno Hauptmann," Ogborn said.
At turns satirical and ironic, the new piece "satirizes the personalities that rose and descended infamously in the media circus and court proceedings. There's definitely a tabloid quality to it. The story is told through the eyes of the people who were on the periphery of the event, or had something to do with it — for example, a maid, police, witnesses."
In February 2001, Scott Susong produced, directed and designed New York City composer-lyricist-librettist Kenneth Vega's musical, Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped!, which coincidentally used the same subject matter — the media circus surrounding the murder. The staging was seen at Baltimore Theatre Project.
— By Kenneth Jones