Box Office of the Damned, the Off-Broadway musical revue that tweaks the world of subscription audiences and theater lobby behavior, opens its Philadelphia premiere April 28, presented by 1812 Productions at the Arden Theatre Company's Arcadia Stage.
1812's staging of composer-lyricist Michael Ogborn's musical revue began previews April 22 and continues to May 16. The show, which uses musical pastiche from reggae to honky tonk to Gilbert and Sullivan, offers an offbeat day in the life of a harried box office staff.
Ogborn, a Philadelphia native and now resident New Yorker, said the revue, which played the West Bank Theatre in New York City in 1989 and then the Classic Stage Company Theater in Manhattan in 1994, was inspired by his time as a box office employee for the 1984 inaugural season of the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia. He later worked three seasons as box office supervisor at the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
"One afternoon after a matinee I said, 'This is truly The Box Office of the Damned,' and a friend said that would be a good name for a musical," Ogborn told Playbill On-Line. "I would come home from work and I would get an idea for a song..."
The show teases matinee ladies ("Vive La Matinee"), inflexible box office employees ("Our Exchange Policy"), demanding stars ("I'm in the Show"), pesky customers ("Go Away, Mrs. Levittown"), ushers ("The New Non-Union Usher Polka") and more. It does for box office staff what A Chorus Line did for dancers, Ogborn suggested. Ogborn said he's written a new song and finale for the 1812 Productions staging, which is co-directed by artistic directors Jen Childs and Pete Pryor, with musical direction by Chris Ertelt. Choreography is by Karen Getz.
The production has an Actors' Equity guest artist contract, said 1812 co- artistic director Childs. The troupe has been non-Equity in the past but is hoping to establish an SPT (small professional theatre) Equity contract next season, she said.
The Box Office of the Damned cast includes local favorite Jilline Ringle, Todd Waddington, Greg Gephart, Dave Jadico, Kimberly Rehfuss, Maggie Lakis and Richard Paul.
Although this is the Philly premiere of the full-length show, it did have a benefit concert reading in its younger form in 1989 at the Wilma Theater. The show has had several productions around the country.
Ogborn, a member of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop in New York City, is currently working book, music and lyrics for Baby Case, a satirical view of the people who gained fame from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case.
"They tell the story," he said. "It's a look at the tabloid America of the 1930s."
The Arden Theatre Company is at 40 N. Second Street in Philadelphia. Tickets are $10-$13. Call (215) 922-1155.
-- By Kenneth Jones