Tag Archives: Ben Dibble

Tulips in an odd key

Tulipomania: The Musical, Book, Music, Lyrics, by Michael Ogborn, Directed by Terence J. Nolen, At the Arden Theatre, May 30-July 1, 2012

Three Michaels have told the story of the tulip’s 17th century boom and bust. Two are non- fiction. Now comes  Michael Ogborn’s Tulipomania: The Musical, at the Arden.  It’s a crazy mixed- up piece of theater. On purpose, I’m sure.  Tulipomania, which borrows from the Mike Dash book and surely the Michael Pollan is a musical comedy and a morality play.  It’s the first musical the Arden ever commissioned. The Arden’s Terry Nolen is directing (as he did Ogborn’s Cafe Puttanesca).

Tulipomania begins in an Amsterdam hash bar where the owner tells strangers the story of the tulip craze. Jeff Coon has an appealing accent that passes for Dutch, and he’s always an appealing singer. His presence is affecting but the role – in fact the musical is overloaded with messageguilt, risk, redemption – like one of those greeting cards that cost too much.

As the tulip tale gets told the Americans in the bar double as the people whose lives were shattered by the Great Tulip Craze of 1636. It doesn’t really work. The set doesn’t change, the costumes are grunge – contemporary – and the music is so Broadway style generic.  It moves from “What have you got to lose?”  with it’s New Age feeling to a Gospel-rousing- audience clap along.

Tulipomania: The Musical tells more than shows.  The lyrics are often cliched.  The score is predictable. But Adam Kazemi’s band (sax, reeds, cello, bass, guitar, flute, keyboard) steps above the bohemian cafe does a good job .  If  generic Broadway musical pop makes you smile,  smile away.

Terry Nolan directs a fine ensemble who could do so much better if  Tulipomania itself were tighter.  Coon, always sings wells, mostly so does Ben Dibble, who plays a painter in both centuries.  Adam Heller plays  a dot-com crook in hiding with a mordant, comic vein.  Singing’s not his forte.  Alex Keiper and Joilet F. Harris do well as women on a business  conference but the roles aren’t very interesting.  Billy Bustamante enlivens Tulipomania as the dancing Waiter.

Private Lives at the Lantern

Private Lives by Noel Coward, The Lantern Theater Company, St. Stephen’s Alley, 10th & Ludlow, Dec.  8 – 31, 2011,  Ben Dibble, Genevieve Perrier, Leonard C. Haas, K.O. DelMarcelle, Jessica Bedford. Directed by Kathyrn MacMillan. Review of opening Dec. 14 for WRTI, 90.1 fm.

Comedies date – even with celebrity drawing power. Noel Coward’s Private Lives is closing early on Broadway even with  Kim Cattrall’s good reviews. We’re pretty far removed from 1930s society…maybe that’s not the wit and glitter we crave now. In Philadelphia, at the Lantern Theater,  a seriously debonaire Ben Dibble, with pencil moustache makes a  flippant Elyot in the Coward play, and Genieve Perrier, black hair clipped with rhinestones, flaunts her way through the role of the equally narcissistic Amanda whom Elyot still loves and love to hate. The hell with love, says Elyot, to his new wife, Sybil (K.O. DelMarcelle), hoping for a tidy, cosy love.

Passion is the ruination of love. It brings jealousy, bickering, pettyiness both Elyot and Amanda believe. The former spouses meet up on their dual honeymoons and chaos ensues.  Leonard Haas plays the tweedy, stuffed shirt Victor Prynne, Amanda’s new groom.  Like the wronged Sybil, he’s utterly earnest, unlike Sybil, he always thinks he’s right.

The farcical situation leads where it might be expected and then detours. Private Lives  addresses the nature of intimacy, desire and expectations about boundaries, which have definitely changed for partners in the last eight decades!

The Lantern production substitutes some humor for slapstick but delivery of all this English inflected wit is a lovely change of pace from the serious drama it usually offers. There is so much fun and glamor. The  fisticuffs – choreographed by Alex Cordero – are terrific. Meghan Jones’s stylish modular set swings from a hotel balcony in Deauville to the interior of Amanda’s Parisian flat.

Amanda and Elyot take little seriously except their desire which  ignites.  Amanda admits she’s irresponsible to the core.  The couple’s wit provides an evening’s laughter at The Lantern.  Private Lives has lines to brood on too.