Baby Case, composer-lyricist-librettist Michael Ogborn's theatrical fantasia on the subject of the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's infant son, will get a full production in fall 2001 at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia, the company announced.
The nonprofit Arden offered a two-week workshop and presentation of the aborning satirical musical June 12-24 under the direction of producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen.
Nolen will direct a second workshop of the show in spring 2001, and will helm the fall 2001 production as well. The show is expected to include film and projections of images from the era.
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 June 24 public reading of the show offered servants, accomplices, the accused and his wife, news mogul William Randolph Hearst, commentator Walter Winchell, the police and others all singing about one of the great crimes of the 20th century. The musical raises questions and ultimately makes 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.
The recent Actors' Equity workshop of Baby Case is funded by an NEA new work development grant. The show 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 Arden reading cast included Charles Antalosky, Susan Artis (as Anna Hauptmann), Debbi Bauml, Scott Boulware, Charissa Carfrey, Ben Dibble (as Charles Lindbergh), Brian Dorsey, Bill Fitzpatrick, Kristine Fraelich (as Betty Gow), Scott Greer, Tracie Higgins, Forrest McClendon, Mary Kate McGrath (Anne Morrow Lindbergh), Fran Prisco, Richard Ruiz, Michael Toolan-Roche and Todd Waddington. Vince DiMura was the June musical director.
The murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son, Charles Jr., caused a sensation in 1932.
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, days after Playbill On-Line broke the story about Ogborn's Lindbergh-baby workshop, a Maryland producer revealed plans for another Lindbergh musical, Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped!
In February 2001, Scott Susong will produce, direct and design New York City composer-lyricist-librettist Kenneth Vega's musical, which uses the same subject matter -- the media circus surrounding the murder.
Vega's Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped! was a finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award in 1997 and pieces of it were seen in a staged reading at Towson University in Maryland in spring 1999, under MFA candidate Susong's direction.
Tentative dates for Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped!, which will use specialized movement, projections and videography, are Feb. 16-March 4, 2001, at Baltimore Theatre Project, a 250-seat independent space known for edgy work in Baltimore. It was not immediately clear what kind of Equity affiliation the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped! staging would have, but auditions will be in New York City and Baltimore in November 2000.
The Arden reading concluded the troupe's inaugural season of the Independence Foundation New Play Showcase. The New Play Showcase is designed to support the Arden's efforts to create, develop and produce new works of American theatre. The other two plays in the showcase this season were Dennis Smeal's play Exit Wounds, and Red Herring by Michael Hollinger.
The Arden Theatre is located at 40 N. Second Street, in Philadelphia. For Arden information, call the box office at (215) 922-1122.
-- By Kenneth Jones