Arden is continuing to develop the new musical about the Netherlands tulip craze of 1637, which mirrors stock and housing crises of modern times, in a four-day workshop that culminates in a private presentation Jan. 27.
This is the Arden's first commissioned musical, bringing together two of its favorite writers, Hollinger (Opus, An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf) and Ogborn (Baby Case, Café Puttanesca), who are both winners of Barrymore Awards in Philadelphia.
Arden calls Tulipomania "a touching and funny comedy about how dreams and desires can dangerously turn into obsession."
Arden artistic director Terrence J. Nolen is directing, with composer-lyricist Ogborn serving as accompanist and musical director. This short workshop began Jan. 22. (An earlier workshop took place in spring 2007 and was funded by the National Alliance of Musical Theatre.)
The workshop cast includes Scott Boulware, Adam Heller, Douglas Ullman, Jr., Ben Dibble, Liz Filios, Mary Martello, Richard Ruiz, Scott Greer and Chris Mullen. According to Arden notes, "The tulip trade provokes a father to betray everything he knows and loves in his insatiable quest for stature, respect and money. As his tulip investments reach a dizzying height, the tulip market takes a precipitous fall. Can he repair what he has broken or replace what he has lost?"
The passion for tulip bulbs in the 17th century "resulted in a bubble not unlike the technology bubble of the 1990s and, more recently, the housing bubble that just recently burst," according to the Arden. "During 17th century 'tulipomania,' bourgeois Dutch were overtaken by an unprecedented obsession with the tulip. Prices skyrocketed, and citizens left solid professions and pawned the tools of their trades to speculate in bulbs."
Hollinger stated, "We envision this piece to be comprised of love, sex, money, power, and at the heart of it all, a bloom — organic, mortal, and prized for looks alone."
The workshop is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Shubert Foundation.
Hollinger's works include Opus, An Empty Plate in the Café Du Grand Boeuf, Incorruptible, Red Herring and Tooth and Claw. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Hollinger "is a classically trained violist who later became captivated by playwriting." He received his masters in theatre at Villanova University, where he is now an assistant professor. Hollinger won the Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play. The world premiere of Opus played an extended run at Arden, followed by other separate regional productions (Pittsburgh's City Theatre, Florida Stage and Cincinnati's Ensemble Theatre Co.,) and Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in 2007-08.
Ogborn's Baby Case, his musical fantasia about the hype surrounding the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's son, had its world premiere at Arden (winning Barrymore Awards for Best Music and Best Musical Production), as did Café Puttanesca, a musical about a gathering of prostitutes who swap war stories. Café Puttanesca also played City Theatre. Terrence J. Nolen, Arden artistic director, helmed Opus and the earlier Ogborn shows.
Greer and Martello won Barrymore Awards for appearing in Ogborn musicals (Baby Case and Café Puttanesca, respectively).
For more information about Arden, the resident Equity company, visit www.ardentheatre.org.
For more about Michael Ogborn's work, visit michaelogborn.com.