Tulipomania, the Musical About Tulips, Hashish and Greed, Premieres May 24; Adam Heller, Jeff Coon Star

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24 May 2012

The days when tulips were bought and sold as gold are conjured in the new musical Tulipomania, with book, music and lyrics by Barrymore Award winner Michael Ogborn, beginning a world-premiere run May 24 by Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia.

Arden previously gave voice to Ogborn's Baby Case, his provocative musical fantasia about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, which won the native-son songwriter a Barrymore; that show is getting its New York premiere this summer in the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

For the 17th century-set Tulipomania: The Musical, playing to July 1 on the F. Otto Haas Stage, director Terrence J. Nolen has collected a cast of Arden veterans, including Jeff Coon (Arden's Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins), Ben Dibble (Candide, Assassins), Adam Heller (My Name Is Asher Lev; Caroline, or Change, Off-Broadway's Make Me a Song, Merrily We Roll Along), Joilet F. Harris (Barrymore Award for Caroline, or Change; Violet), Alex Keiper (The Flea and the Professor) and Billy Bustamante (Pacific Overtures).

Here's how Arden bills the musical: "Before we had the subprime mortgage crisis or the dot com bust, Holland had the Tulip craze of 1636, the first recorded financial bubble. Six strangers in an Amsterdam hash bar recall this seedy story of love, sex, money, and power, as the story shifts seamlessly between both time periods."

Ogborn said in production notes, "The score is contemporary in sound, structure and arrangement with harmonic underpinnings of 17th-century music and folk ballad forms, along with influences from Turkey and Afghanistan where the tulip was first discovered. This story gives me the opportunity to return to the themes I began exploring as a young composer: greed, forgiveness, redemption — and how one man's actions profoundly affect those around him and history itself."



Tulipomania is Arden's third Ogborn premiere following 2001's Baby Case (Barrymore Award for Outstanding Original Music) and 2003's Café Puttanesca.

The production team creating the "smoky production" includes set designer James Kronzer (Barrymore Award winner for Something Intangible), costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey (Barrymore Award winner for Something Intangible and Caroline, or Change), lighting designer John Stephen Hoey and sound designer Jorge Cousineau. Music director Dan Kazemi leads "the live band of six onstage musicians who are incorporated into the action of the on-stage hash bar."

Opening night is May 30. Arden is at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia. Visit ardentheatre.org for more information.