The Bucks County Playhouse is pulling out all the stops to prepare for the world premiere of “Other World” on March 28. The new musical by Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee explores what happens when the world’s most popular video game goes out of business, bringing together an unlikely group of online friends offline in their mission to save it.
“They had a reading for the show in New York and invited a bunch of theaters. Fortunately, they invited us,” says producing director Alexander Fraser. “My business partner Robyn Goodman and I just flipped over it. We thought it was really fresh and original and went into a world the theater hadn’t gone to before.”
Putting on such a big show would be a massive undertaking for the 81-year-old theater, but Fraser and his team was up for the challenge.
“Given the subject matter, it’s a big show for us,” Fraser says. “For one, you can’t go into a video game without videos. So now there’s a huge video wall that stretches through the entire back of the theater — it’s heavy and requires a huge amount of electricity.”
In addition to doubling the amount of electricity to operate the new video wall, the sound system also received an upgrade ahead of the premiere for “Other World.” But it’s all for the love of great theater.
“It’s really an honor to have a show pick you to help them launch it,” Fraser says. “There’s nothing more thrilling than having the writers in the room and working on a new show.”
Fraser and his team hope that the upgrades will bring more world premieres to the Bucks County Playhouse.
“When you go back to the theater’s history, the goal of the founders back in 1938 was to build an experimental theater to premiere new work,” Fraser says. “It’s nice to know we’re carrying on a tradition that was important to this place all along.”
According to Fraser, the Bucks County Playhouse did a lot of traditional work with Hollywood stars during its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, with everyone from Grace Kelly to Dick Van Dyke gracing its stage.
“It wasn’t until the 60s that producer Mike Ellis really started doing new plays. He actually gave Neil Simon his start,” Fraser says. “Before Mike Ellis, Neil Simon was a TV writer who never had a play produced. So Ellis did Simon’s first four plays at the playhouse. When ‘Barefoot in the Park’ happened, that made Neil Simon a star.”
“Other World” will be the fourth new musical at Bucks County Playhouse since Fraser joined the team in 2014.
“I hope we’ll be able to do many more,” he says. “We have to have new work.”
“Other World” will be performed from March 28 through April 11.
For more information on The Bucks County Playhouse and “Other World,” visit bcptheater.org