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Other World opens with a cadre of warriors crouched over their controllers, on the edge of their seats, ready to follow their leader into battle. They’re in the grip of a fictional, eponymous video game, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) whose players, including a hippie professor, a brand-building streaming personality, and a timid young gay man still mourning his mother’s death, become the Forces of Light.
And now Other World the game faces an IRL threat—its parent company has decided it will be shut down in a matter of days. It’s a bitter pill for the crew to swallow: so many hours, so much life has been invested in this magical, digital world. Sri (Jamen Nanthakumar) is determined to save the group’s world, but in the process he gets himself and his childhood acquaintance, Lorraine (Bonnie Milligan), sucked into the virtual reality of Other World. Suddenly, the game’s survival becomes less important than that of Sri and Lorraine, who must escape the virtual reality before the game is erased forever.
Cosplay, Comicon, and choreography
The set and staging of Other World boast the richness of both digital and physical worlds. Video game graphics hover and rotate in the background, while Tilly Grimes’s costume designs celebrate the wardrobes of cosplay and Comicon. It’s exhilarating to behold, and costuming for the Marauders and the Coryphee gain dimension when paired with Karla Puno Garcia’s excellent choreography.
The cast—like the rest of our world—includes actors and dancers of varied mobility, and Garcia’s choreography seamlessly incorporates these differences. In a show about connection and togetherness, friendship and community, Garcia manages to capture the whole from the very first number.
Occasionally the show’s conviction in the power of friendship is laid on too thick, but a few overly sentimental moments are rescued by the quality of the cast. Co-lyricists and composers Ann McNamee and Jeff Bowen’s delightful numbers convey frenzied video game soundtrack excitement (“Dance Inside the Lightning”) as well as emotional depth and longing (“Best Team Ever”). Milligan, in her performance as Lorraine, gives a stunning rendition of “Reaching for the Sky” that suspends the song in time, sparkling.
A few characters and portrayals fall short: Myra (Adinah Alexander) falls into cliché as a “hip” older professor, and Nanthakumar’s performance seems to get uncharacteristically weepy to explain why Sri would detour from the mission to sing “That’s Why We Play.”
A brightening future
Other World is a celebratory new offering with a cast that easily channels the enthusiasm, conviction, and ingenuousness of its characters. Milligan gives dry humor, openness, and a spectacular voice to Lorraine, and Melissa Salguero is almost too convincing in her role as Jamie, an aspiring live-streaming icon. Weta Workshop, the special-effects and prop company behind Lord of the Rings and Avatar, brings a big name and high-quality graphics to the musical’s digital elements.
The show premiered to a full house on March 5, and rightfully so (cosplay for audience members is optional). It flexes the advantages of digital and physical worlds and isn’t afraid to revel in the pageantry. This is the kind of musical that makes the future seem brighter in any world.
What, When, Where
Other World. By Hunter Bell. Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee. Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, with choreography by Karla Puno Garcia. $20–$65. Through March 20, 2022, at Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water Street, Wilmington, Delaware. (302) 594-1100 or delawaretheatre.org.
Proof of Covid-19 vaccination and a mask is required to attend. Seating is not distanced.
Delaware Theatre Company is a wheelchair-accessible venue. If you require wheelchair seating, inform the box office when you order tickets. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available.
There will be ASL-interpreted performances of Other World on Thursday, March 17, at 7pm and Saturday, March 19, at 2pm. An Open Inclusive description performance will be held on Saturday, March 19, at 2pm, and audio description will be available on Saturday, March 12, at 2pm and Friday, March 18, at 8pm.
Contact the DTC box office to purchase ASL accessible seating and learn more about audio-description services: (302) 594-1100 or [email protected].
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