Tulipomania: The Musical
"Tulipomania" at the Arden Theatre this month is an odd, if entertaining, closing show to a stellar season of theatre. Amongst such towering works like "August: Osage County" and "Clybourne Park," this musical seemed not just a little out of place, but also trivial.
While Arden’s production value continues to be arguably the highest in all of Philadelphia, it was somewhat wasted on "Tulipomania." A reworking of Michale Ogborn’s original show, first shown at the Arden in 2005, it is the tale of one man’s tragedy amongst the 17th Century Dutch Tulip Craze. While it works as a sharp commentary on the world’s current financial crisis, it has been further modernized by telling the story through a modern day Amsterdam hash bar.
The play centers around the owner of the hash bar, his waiter and a few customers seeking refuge from the inclement weather. After one mentions that they wanted to see the famous tulip gardens, the owner offers to tell them everything they need to know about tulips and what they once meant to the city’s people.
From there the show launches into an often confusing mixture of songs about the 17th Century Tulip Craze and these characters’ modern day lives. Many of the parallels that "Tulipomania" attempted to create didn’t make much sense and left many moments flat.
The songs themselves were pleasant enough, with a couple of stand-outs including the "Tavern Scenes" and "Beauty." Still, the stronger members of the company actually got the least amount of time to shine and the songs too often seemed to be lacking in memorable moments.
Particularly the always spectacular Alex Keiper did as much as she could with the small amount of material available to her. All of this very mid-level execution made for simply an agreeable night of theatre, but not necessarily a stand-out one.
"Tulipomania" wasn’t a disappointing way for the Arden Theatre to end their season. It was enjoyable enough, but I sort of hoped for something with more depth and strength than it offered.
If you are simply looking for a musical done well, then this show might be enough for you. If you are seeking a night of strong theatre, then perhaps this is one summer show that you will want to skip.
"Tulipomania" runs through July 1 at the Arden Theatre at 40 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA. For info or tickets info call 215-922-8900 or visit www.ardentheatre.org