The New York Musical Theater Festival proclaims itself to be?“Changing the World 30 Musicals at a Time.” Baby Case more than fills the bill.
It’s the story of the kidnapping of the Charles Lindbergh baby. A shocking event that brought out the worst in human nature. Public and media alike fed off of it and gave rise to what may have been the very first disaster circus.
Greed became an obsession with vendors selling everything from “the baby’s hair” to photos and miniature ladders. Announcing “I’m a celebrity,” the man who found the baby (very ably portrayed by Eugene Barry-Hill) featured himself in a vaudeville act.
Out of the maze of intrigue, deceit, cunning and still unanswered questions comes a truly remarkable musical with book, lyrics and music by Michael Ogborn, impeccable direction by Jeremy Dobrish and never a miss-step choreography by Warren Adams.
It’s a large cast, with the each member playing at least two different characters. For the most part, the doubling of roles works very well. Seamlessly executed and with such strong performances we are often unaware of it.
Perhaps the only inexplicably disturbing doubling is that of Charles Lindbergh with the alleged killer, Bruno Hauptmann. Will Reynolds does an excellent job with both, though at times holding back what is clearly a strong voice more than might be necessary as the humble and self-effacing Charles.
The cast is outstanding. The level of energy and focus never falters and the ensemble work is as powerful as the individual roles. One of many notable performances is Patricia Noonan’s portrayal of Betty Gow. She is what one hopes for in a musical theatre performer. An excellent and well-trained voice, range, emotional accuracy and near flawless diction.
Another standout is Kurt Zischke who, as the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, exemplifies the creation of a total character. A powerful voice, ably supported by acting, facial expression and body language.
There’s ransom money, a second baby for the LIndberghs, a trial filled with corruption—witnesses paid to lie, their expressed explanation being “I needed money,” and Hauptmann’s words and alibis consistently ignored.
There is an intrinsic blending of tragedy and humor throughout, concluding with the tragedy of an execution juxtaposed with the ensemble singing “Invitation to an Execution.”
Baby Case is truly a remarkable production with talent without exception and production values without fault. Performances have ended, but it is definitely not the last we have seen of this musical.
Presented by The New York Musical Theater Festival and Charlie Fink
Book, Lyrics and Music by Michael Ogborn
Direction: Jeremy Dobrish
Choreography: Warren Adams