Harding Gets His Due in Steinhagen Musical

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 26, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Harding Gets His Due in Steinhagen Musical


Byline: Jack Helbig

Chicago-based composer Jon Steinhagen has made a career out of writing musicals with odd but interesting premises. In the early '90s he wrote "Alice in Analysis," a musical sequel to "Alice in Wonderland" that put an adult Alice in therapy and treated her wonderland adventures as so many symptoms of mental illness.

Later, Steinhagen collaborated on a musical version of "Dante's Inferno" and Franz Kafka's "The Trial."

But nothing he has done so far comes close to the hilariously oddball idea behind "The Teapot Scandals of 1923," a musical version of the scandal-plagued administration of President Warren G. Harding.

Yes, you read right, the Harding administration. The Harding administration has gone down in history for two things: the Teapot Dome Scandal and the fact that Harding only escaped disgrace by dying in office.

"I first came up with the idea when I was reading a book about America's worst Presidents," Steinhagen said with a laugh, "and I read that Harding had the reputation of being the worst president ever."

The more Steinhagen read about Harding the more he thought he would make a good subject for a musical.

If Sondheim could pen a musical about people who attempted to kill presidents, why not a musical about a bad president?

Steinhagen let the idea percolate for a couple years, and in the summer of 2004 the folks at Porchlight Music Theater asked Steinhagen to become an artistic associate.

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