Michael Ogborn's new musical, Baby Case, an examination of the hoopla surrounding the 1932 murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh's baby, began a two-week workshop June 12 at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia.
Rehearsals directed by Arden producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen and musical-directed by Vince DiMura lead to a public presentation at the Arden, June 24. The workshop was variously planned for March and May, but was bumped to June in order to not rush casting, orchestrations and rewrites, Ogborn told Playbill On-Line.
The Equity workshop 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 cast includes 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.
* The murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son, Charles Jr., caused a sensation in 1932.
Composer-lyricist-librettist Ogborn, a Philly native, had a 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."
Ogborn, who lives in New York City, added, "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 of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son.
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 will conclude 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. Baby Case tickets are available on a first-come, first serve basis. They will be handed out in the lobby starting at 7:30 PM. Call the box office for more information at (215) 922-1122.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Daniel Fischer