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Decades of entertainment

Bucks County Playhouse announces 80th anniversary season

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Community cornerstone: To commemorate its milestone 80th anniversary, the Bucks County Playhouse is bringing audiences one of its most distinguished seasons to date, which includes a nail-biting thriller, high-energy musical and touching life story. Source: Bucks County Playhouse

Since its inception in 1939, the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope has acquired quite the storied history.

During that time, the nonprofit theater has grown to a $6 million producing organization, amassing an annual audience of more than 73,000. Its stage has welcomed the likes of Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli and countless other Broadway and Hollywood artists, who have starred in box office-breaking productions like Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Million Dollar Quartet, 42nd Street and Guys & Dolls.

This year, the Playhouse is reflecting on its tireless rise to success as it celebrates its 80th anniversary. To commemorate this impressive milestone, audiences can enjoy one of its most distinguished seasons to date. Recently, executive producer Robyn Goodman, producing director Alexander Fraser, and producer Josh Fiedler revealed the titles and creative teams for the upcoming shows, which launch on May 17 and include a nail-biting thriller, high-energy musical, and touching true-life story.

“Founded in a converted 1790 gristmill, Bucks County Playhouse quickly earned a reputation as one of the most famous theaters in America. Artists from New York and Hollywood came here to escape the summer heat and apply their craft for excited and receptive audiences,” said Fraser. “Our 2019 season celebrates the great heritage of the Playhouse, while keeping an eye squarely on the future. The community has embraced the newly-invigorated Playhouse. We can’t wait to share this season, and these celebratory events, with our growing audiences.”

The 2019 season kicks off with the thriller Dial M For Murder by Frederick Knott. Running May 17-June 15 and directed by Mike Donahue (Off-Broadway’s The Legend of Georgia McBride), the show is a timeless masterpiece of suspense. Tony believes he has plotted the perfect crime, but when the tables are turned, he will stop at nothing to ensure his plans succeed. The play that inspired Alfred Hitchbock’s classic film weaves an ever-tightening web of danger and deception that will keep theater-goers hooked until the final curtain.

Next on the schedule is the international phenomena Mamma Mia!, which will be the largest musical produced at the historic venue since its reopening in 2012. Tony-nominated actor John Tartaglia (original star of Broadway’s Avenue Q) will direct the production, which will run June 28-Aug. 3. Mamma Mia! follows Sophie on the eve of her wedding as she tries to discover the identity of her father. Told through the music of ABBA, it features 22 of their greatest hits such as “Take a Chance on Me” and “Dancing Queen.”

Ted Swindley’s Always…Patsy Cline, a musical focusing on the friendship between the country music icon and a Texas housewife, will be on stage Aug. 9-Sept. 7 and star Sally Struthers (BCP’s Clue: On Stage). Directed by David Galligan, Always…Patsy Cline is a showcase for 27 songs including “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.” After hearing Cline on the radio in 1957, housewife Louise Seger became an immediate, avid fan, and a chance meeting at a concert brought them face-to-face. Over a pot of coffee, they forged a bond that would last until Cline’s tragic death in 1963.

The season concludes Nov. 8–30 with the Tony Award-winning Once: The Musical, directed and choreographed by Playhouse artistic associate Lorin Latarro. Performed by a talented cast of actor-musicians, Once tells the tale of a Dublin street musician and part-time vacuum repairman, Guy. He is about to give up on his musical dream when a beautiful, young Czech immigrant, Girl, takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. As the chemistry between them grows, Guy’s music soars to powerful new heights.

“Bucks County Playhouse has attracted incredible artists, not only to appear onstage, but also for their directorial talent,” said Goodman. “We are very pleased to have this incredible group of directors helm our 2019 season. We look forward to seeing the energy, ideas and enthusiasm each of them brings to these well-loved and highly-anticipated shows.”

Fiedler shared a similar sentiment.

“With box office record-breaking productions of 42nd Street and Million Dollar Quartet, our 2018 season was a resounding success. More than 30 percent of our audience were first-time buyers last year — more than any other time in the Playhouse’s 80-year history,” he said. “This 2019 season reflects this growth and shows our commitment to reward audiences, old and new, with a high-quality theater experience.”

The producers also announced the return of two shows off-subscription: Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show from Oct. 11–27; and the return of Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen’s Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big Playhouse Christmas Show from Dec. 6–29. Both productions have become Playhouse traditions.

Additionally, the Playhouse will observe its 80th anniversary season with a slew of benefit readings as part of its Play Discovery Reading Series. Curated by Marsha Mason, the series continues with upcoming readings of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “Lion In Winter.” This summer, the Playhouse will produce its annual Oscar Hammerstein Festival — a weekend of special events devoted to musical theater and the importance of lyric writing.

The centerpiece of the year-long anniversary celebration will be a riverfront gala at the Playhouse in September that will also officially unveil a revitalized New Hope waterfront. Details will be announced soon.

Season tickets are now available and start at $200 for four shows. All play titles, artists and dates are subject to change. For tickets and information, visit BucksCountyPlayhouse.org or call 215–862–2121. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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