A kidnapped baby. An American Hero. Sensationalized news coverage. All add up to the “Crime of the Century”. Throw in some songs and you have the musical “Baby Case” currently playing in Saint Paul at the History Theatre. Known for producing shows with historical ties to Minnesota and the upper Midwest, the History Theatre tapped Michael Ogborn’s “Baby Case” to open their season. “Baby Case” recounts the 1932 kidnapping and murder of Charles A. Lindbergh’s 20 month old son and the non stop press coverage through the conviction of Bruno Hauptmann.
Kendall Anne Thompson shines as Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her portrayal of the worried and later grieving mother was powerful. She displayed such raw emotion in the song “Lullaby” seeing her shed those tears broke your heart. During “Hour of Gold” and “Our Little Boy” her powerful and angelic voice filled the theatre with grief stricken empathy.
Peter Middlecamp’s Charles A. Lindbergh is brilliant. His boyish good looks and movie star presence lend to the ‘American Hero’ angle the press played to. He doesn’t sing during “Lullaby” but his raw emotion and chemistry with Kendall Anne Thompson’s Anne as they digest the realization their baby boy isn’t coming home pulls at the heart strings.
Paul R. Coate’s turn as Evalyn McLean, the DC socialite who put up $100,000 towards a ransom request and fell victim to a scam artist claiming to be the kidnapper offers comedic relief. His first scene as Evalyn is gold. From the red housecoat to the red high heeled slippers to the red polish pedicure I could see from my seat.
The set is simple, yet perfect. 3M donated the newspaper headline covered vinyl signage covering the stage floor and hanging at the back of the stage. Layered in front of these graphics is a simple black catwalk, stairs, windows and balcony that complete the set. Throughout the show black kitchen style chairs serve as placeholders for everything from a desk to a car, from an airplane to a crib. I did like the fireman’s pole and the entrances by this pole being accompanied by slide whistle.
The one issue I had with “Baby Case” is the songs. There are too many of them. Especially in act two, where I question the relevance of the songs to the story. Is there actually a connection for these songs I am missing or do they solely serve the purpose of extending a particular character’s stage time? The main song I see no connection to the story is “Lawsuit Daddy”. It’s a song about prosecutor David Wilentz and strippers.
Overall, the show is wonderful and does a great job telling the story that captivated the nation from 1932 to 1935. “Baby Case” runs through November 3. For more information or to purchase tickets visit the History Theatre’s website.
Photo Credit: Scott Pakudaitis