With a Change of Gardener, Tulipomania: The Musical Will Blossom in Philadelphia

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10 Feb 2011

Tulipomania, the musical about the real-life Netherlands tulip craze of the 1600s, developed in a 2009 workshop by Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company, is sprouting anew with a shift in personnel.



Playwright Michael Hollinger (Opus) and composer-lyricist Michael Ogborn (Baby Case) — both of them Barrymore Award winners — previously worked on the project, which was seen in a reading and a workshop directed by Arden artistic director Terrence J. Nolen.

"After we completed the workshop in 2009, we decided we were going to move forward with the piece, but in a new direction," Ogborn told Playbill.com.

Ogborn has assumed book duty, and Hollinger will remain on board as official dramaturg. "The concept, conceit and location have been revamped and only two songs from the first version have made it into the current Tulipomania," composer-lyricist-librettist Ogborn told Playbill.com.

A full production is slated for the spring of 2012 in the Arden's Haas Theatre. Nolen will direct. The new version of the property will get a June 2011 workshop.

Tulipomania: The Musical is "the story of a man who sacrifices everything he owns for a tulip," according to the author. "The musical is a tale of greed and beauty. When tulip bulbs were sold and traded on the open market and on paper, people became wealthy almost over night. It was the first recorded economic bubble. This bubbble eventually burst when prices became too high rendering many once respected and profitable middle-class businessmen penniless."

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 in Pittsburgh. Nolen, Arden's artistic director, helmed Opus and the earlier Ogborn shows.

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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."

For more information about Arden, the resident Equity company in Philadelphia, visit www.ardentheatre.org.

For more about Michael Ogborn's work, visit michaelogborn.com.