Field Hockey...The Musical?
New musicals don’t often arise in Philadelphia. Musicals about sports come along even more seldom. But a musical about field hockey, developed by Philadelphia’s 11th Hour Theatre Company, is unprecedented. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns walked into the company's South Philly rehearsal studios hardly knowing what field hockey is.
DPS: Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. Michael Jackson in Thriller. The TV show Dynasty. The 1980s at their silliest, and most lurid, is the real subject matter of Field Hockey Hot, the new musical by the popular composer/lyricist/librettist Michael Ogborn that's being hatched with local star Jennie Eisenhower. She plays a fanatical Main Line field hockey coach who is focused on the prize - any prize – and all manner of fantasies.
Michael Ogborn: There’s an Elton John number, it's like where I get my strength back and he comes and sings to me and inspires me; it's sort of like "Candle in the Wind," like "Heal the Children." It's just so epic. Every song becomes a music video.
DPS: Composer Ogborn is known for musicalizing unconventional subjects such as Baby Case about the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. For this show, he's harkening back to old Jerome Kern musicals that cast glamorous stars as high school and college kids.
MO: He was taking his highfalutin world and bringing it down to a realistic level by writing about high school kids.
DPS: Though relatively small and just ten years old, the 11th Hour Theatre Company seemed like the right place for Field Hockey Hot.
MO: They're very centered on theater performance. American theater has veered so far into the self indulgent that the performance aspect is often lost, and I want to bring that back.
DPS: By far the biggest production in 11th Hour Theatre's history, the $75,000 price tag has been eased by long marginalized field hockey companies that have been coming out of the woodwork and offering sponsorship. In fact, the show generally seems to be coming together with minimum anguish, at least for director Megan Nicole O'Brien.
MNO: When you have the right people in the room, I just sort of point at people to let them do their thing.
DPS: The cast is the first to admit the show is a bit is silly. But that doesn’t mean it's stupid or shallow, especially for Jennie Eisenhower.
JE: In comedy, everything has to be more truthful than in drama. It’s the truthiest I've ever been. I feel everything at the core of my being.
DPS: But musical theater is a high-stakes platform. And does this brand of silliness have the theatrical weight to fill it?