Just ask the cast how they feel about opening “Tall Green Plumber” tonight at Little Theater of Wilkes-Barre and you’ll hear comments like “It’s amazing!” “It’s fantastic!” and “We can create a role!”
Local playwrights Michael Wawrzynek and Ian Owens wrote the original musical, and this is its world premiere.
The excitement is heightened by the fact that this is the first mainstage show Little Theater will present since the pandemic curtailed the season in March 2020.
And as playwright Owens explained when he took a break from watching a recent rehearsal, “Everyone’s having so much fun.”
How could they not? After all, the show is based on characters and adventures from classic video games.
But you don’t have to be an experienced gamer to appreciate the storyline.
“The show’s overarching story is universal — the idea of friendship, family and teamwork,” playwright Wawrzynek wrote in an email. “We wanted to tell an uplifting story that resonates with the people of today in a unique and new way. So even if you don’t get all the video game references, you can still follow the story and enjoy the journey.”
“The core of the show is to explore the importance of getting up and doing the right thing, even when you’re feeling uncomfortable or scared. Plus, it’s an original musical with 20 original songs — what’s not to like?!”
The show was a collaboration between the two writers, Owens said.
“Songs that I came up with, he’s orchestrated. Certain lines I wrote; certain jokes he wrote,” said Owens, who thoroughly enjoyed watching the show come together during rehearsal.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I remember where I was when I wrote those lines.”
As you might guess, both writers have long been fans of video games.
“I grew up playing Super Mario Bros.,” Owens said. “My cousins would come and we would all play Nintendo.”
“I remember getting the Nintendo 64 for Christmas as a kid and rarely putting the controller down,” Wawrzynek wrote. “As I got older, video games started to evolve from basic platformers and party games to unique digital artistry and storytelling devices. So even now I have a huge appreciation for how cinematic and impactful video games can be.”
“When Ian approached me to write this musical, I couldn’t say no to the idea of combining two of my favorite things: theater and video games!”
If you have a similar enthusiasm for video games, you’ll enjoy the show even more.
“The script and music are filled to the brim with video game jokes, references and tributes – some of which only diehard gamers will be able to capture,” wrote Wawrzynek. “In addition, the production team has worked tirelessly to come up with creative ways to bring our video game world to life. From a pixelated set reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 era to familiar 8-bit sound effects to cast members dressed as coins doing a kick-line with a Mario-esque hero…everyone did their best to make this production a video gamer’s delight. to make. As we say in the video game world, there are a lot of Easter Eggs to be found.”
Director Tom Franko said it is exciting to work on a show that has never been presented before.
“With other shows I’ve directed, there’s always a template. You can go on YouTube and see it. But here’s new territory,’ he said.
“I must have read the script 100 times,” he said, explaining that this helped shape his vision for the show. “And everyone has been so helpful, with cast members coming forward with ideas.”
Older gamers can draw parallels between characters they’ve seen on screen and characters they’ll see on stage. For example, is Princess Pear similar to Princess Peach? Is Frog a replacement for Toad? Are Alfredo and Linguini similar to Mario and Luigi?
“The video game characters we pay tribute to in this show have shared the same basic characteristics for over 30 years, and we wanted to play with the idea of undermining expectations,” wrote Wawrzynek. “What if the hero is a selfish threat who is only interested in beer, pizza and fame? What if the princess had enough of her life in the castle? What if the villain isn’t as bad as we’re led to believe? We were so excited to take characters from our childhood and play with their wants and desires.”
The production, with additional book and lyrics provided by Katie Lynch and original graphics by Eyanna Gruver, will run from September 10 through 19 with shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at ltwb.org or by calling the box office at 570-823-1875. Note: The production contains adult themes and is not recommended for children.