Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, Is Under Water — Again

News   Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, Is Under Water — Again
 
The Bucks County Playhouse and Odette's, two bright entertainment spots in New Hope, Pennsylvania, have been flooded by the cresting Delaware River.

Heavy rains and rising rivers have caused floods and the threat of flooding in recent days in the Mid-Atlantic states, including Pennsylvania, where the historic Bucks County Playhouse has been putting on plays for almost 70 years.

Performances of Miss Saigon and The Wizard of Oz there have been canceled. Owner Ralph Miller said he has nine feet of water in his theatre and assesses the damage to be $1 million.

Miller hopes to be up and running in the next week or so, but that doesn't mean he's not hopping mad about what he calls "a man-made flood."

Miller blames selfish developers and municipalities far upriver for releasing water from their reservoirs during a time of heavy rain. He said he's exploring a class action lawsuit that he hopes will prevent problems in the future. New Hope has struggled with three floods in the past 19 months, he and other residents said.

Down the street from the Playhouse, Odette's, the popular restaurant and cabaret venue on the banks of the Delaware, is closed until further notice. Bob Egan, who has booked eclectic entertainment there for 19 years, told Playbill.com June 29 the venue is under five feet of water and the river has yet to crest. Major entertainers have played Odette's over the years. Billy Stritch, Julie Wilson and others were booked in the coming weeks. Odette's has also given voice to new performers in its weekly Monday night showcase.

"I can't imagine anything happening before Labor Day," said Egan. Two baby grand pianos, as well as lighting and sound equipment, were rescued from Odette's, Egan said.

Miller said flood insurance replaced materials and equipment at the Playhouse after the previous two floods — and will again for this flood.

"It's ridiculous," Miller said, adding that there is also a human toll. People who live on the river banks on Waterloo Street have been moved to shelters for the third time in 19 months. The Playhouse's non-Equity actors live in high-ground housing and have offered to pitch in to help clean up the theatre, Miller said.

The upcoming long July 4 weekend in New Hope is an important weekend for tourist business and summer residents in the charming town, known for shops, galleries, antique stores and restaurants.

For more information and updates about the venues, visit www.buckscountyplayhouse.com or www.odettes.com.

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According to its website, "The Bucks County Playhouse is a national landmark rich in theatrical history. Some of the biggest and brightest names in show business first got their start on its stage.

"The building known as the Bucks County Playhouse was originally a grist mill. The Hope Mills, as they were first named, burned to the ground and were rebuilt in the year 1790 by local businessman, Benjamin Parry. This building was renamed the New Hope Mills and the town got a new name as well.

"With the threat of this already historic building being torn down in the 1930s, the mill was purchased by a group of individuals, including playwright Moss Hart, expressly for the purpose of performing live theatrical productions. Renovations began in 1938, and an official opening was scheduled for July 1, 1939. Workers continued renovations right up until a few minutes before the theatre opened its doors to the first paying customers. The first show performed was a drama, Springtime for Henry, starring the well known Edward Everett Horton.

"The Bucks County Playhouse grew rapidly. It soon became known as America's Most Famous Summer Theatre, and for good reason. Not only did performances feature well known stars of stage, screen and television, but the Playhouse also became known as a pre-Broadway theatre premiering some of the most famous dramas in theatrical history. Dramas like Harvey, Nobody Loves Me (aka Barefoot in the Park) and Give 'Em Hell Harry made their premieres at Bucks County."

The list of performers who have played there includes Kim Hunter, Helen Hayes, Kitty Carlisle, Colleen Dewhurst, Shirley Booth, Sara Seegar, Lillian Gish, June Lockhart, Frances Reid, Peggy McCay, Grace Kelly, Bonnie Franklin, Kaye Ballard, Sandy Dennis, Farley Granger, Robert Redford, Paul Lynde, Kevin McCarthy, Bert Lahr, Leslie Nielsen, Jack Klugman, Gale Gordon, Roddy McDowell, Walter Matthau, Merv Griffin and Larry Hagman.

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