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Friday, 20 July 2012 21:25

NYMF Review: BABY CASE

Written by
Will Reynolds as Charles Lindbergh w/ Jason Collins and Eugene Barry-Hill Will Reynolds as Charles Lindbergh w/ Jason Collins and Eugene Barry-Hill Billy Bustamante

The not-so-new musical Baby Case by Michael Ogborn at the New York Musical Theatre Festival first had its premiere in 2001 at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia.  While it isn't all perfect, it has the most potential of the four shows I have seen thus far at this year's Festival.  It could use a nip and a tuck but by and large this makes for an interesting musical.

The opening number, "American Hero" quickly establishes the meteoric rise of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh after his transatlantic flight at the ripe old age of 25.  The press-shy Lindbergh and his heiress wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, are soon married and have their first child, Charles, Jr.  They attempt to retreat to the rolling hills of Hopewell, NJ. to avoid the hounding of the press.

Their life was forever scarred when, at the age of 20-months, Charles, Jr. is kidnapped from his bedroom and a ransom note left on the windowsill.  Thus begins the Crime of the 20th Century.  

The musical successfully captures America’s fascination with the case and the opportunistic tendency of man to rear its ugly head.   The newscast announcing the news of the abduction is sponsored by Dr. Denton's "the coveralls little Lindy was wearing the night he was abducted."  A boy pedals “locks of the boy’s hair” sealed in plastic bags on the street and another sells little wooden ladders (a replica of the ladder used to climb to the baby’s window).  

At the same time, we do see a bit of the generous side of man as John Condon (Tom Riis Farrell), a wealthy older man generously donates his time and money to the cause of finding the Lindbergh's son.  

One of the first suspects is Violet Sharpe, one of the Lindbergh’s maids.  Her role in the crime is never particularly clear. After the police question her a second time, she takes her own life.  Just before she drinks the poison that kills her, she sings a beautiful song that speaks to the tragic state of affairs she leaves behind, “Dirty Dishes.”  It is the loveliest song in the show.   Violet is played by the talented Melissa van der Schyff, whose delivery of “Dirty Dishes” is breathtaking.

Many of the show’s roles are double cast, with some of the actors playing three and four roles. The most interesting double casting in the show is that of Will Reynolds as both Charles Lindbergh and Bruno Hauptmann, the man who is ultimately convicted and executed for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby.  Reynolds has an attractive singing voice, rugged good looks and does justice to both roles.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh is played by Anika Larsen in a performance that will break your heart.  She is double cast as well, playing the role of Anna, the wife of Bruno Hauptmann.

The musical uses a narrator in the form of famed New York Daily Mirror columnist, Walter Winchell.  Winchell is played by Michael Thomas Holmes in a performance that is broad and grating at times.  In making his headline pronouncements, he is yelling at the audience and lacks the terse self-control that Winchell possessed.

Director, Jeremy Dobrish, has artfully brought this show to life.  Warren Adams’s choreography is modest and at times a little bland. The set and costume design is by Martin Lopez. He has kept it simple and functional. The lighting by Zach Blane adds to the mood of the production.

There are a couple of numbers that could have been cut from this musical. Unfortunately the title song, “Baby Case” is one of those songs.  It just sounded uninspired. There were a couple of short, novelty numbers like the “Flemington Jingle” and “Ladder Song,” that I found unnecessary.  But, there's no need to throw this baby out with the bathwater, there is a lot to like here and we might just see more of Baby Case in an extended run somewhere.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: The Griffin at the Pershing Square Signature Center
  • Theatre Address: 480 West 42nd St. New York, NY 10036
  • Show Style: Musical
Last modified on Sunday, 22 July 2012 00:16