By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 09, 2020 at 6:31 PM

While Peter the Pilot's journey for love will come to an end this week, another is about to begin – right here in Milwaukee.

On Sunday, March 15, "The Bachelor Live on Stage" will come to the Riverside Theater, bringing everything you love about the ABC romance reality show (the roses, the dramatic dates, the excuse to drink wine with friends) to life right in front of your eyes – including former "Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise" contestant Clay Harbor – who will serve as the evening's leading man. Meanwhile, playing the role of Chris Harrison, will be two former stars of the real show: season 14 "Bachelorette" Becca Kufrin and season 20 "Bachelor" Ben Higgins.

"The live show is a two-hour expedited 'Bachelor'/'Bachelorette' show," Higgins explained, during a recent phone interview. "You have one person dating ten people on stage in front of a live audience. There’s group dates. There’s rose ceremonies. There’s group date roses. There’s first impression roses. There’s hometowns and fantasy suites. And it’s all leading up to getting the final rose. So everything you see on the show on television is represented here on stage.

"It’s like speed dating on steroids. It’s like speed dating with a bunch of resources behind it. It’s like speed dating with music, dancers and a live audience. People pick their favorite women. They’ve yelled at the Bachelor – good and bad. It’s like watching a sporting event on stage."

Considering he's experienced the show on almost every side – as a contestant on "The Bachelorette," the star of "The Bachelor" and even on a season of "Bachelor Winter Games" – Higgins, along with Kufrin, makes a perfect host to translate the show to a live experience.

Most important for me, a recapper/fan of the show, it also makes him perfect to pick his brain and learn about the TV show's inner workings and emotional complications – so I asked about what current star Peter Weber's done wrong this season from another Bachelor's perspective, what it's like falling in love with multiple people at once on television and what he thinks about new "Bachelorette" star Clare Crawley. Here's what I learned:

OnMilwaukee: What’s it like essentially playing Chris Harrison on stage? What’s it like taking on that host role?

Ben Higgins: You know, it’s an honor. Honestly. It sounds funny to even say, "To play a friend of mine is an honor," but it is. Chris Harrison has been an incredible friend to me. He’s been an incredible person to me. He’s helped me behind the scenes, navigating a lot of these things. To be able to represent something that he’s helped put together is really awesome. It’s been great, and I’ve had a lot of fun at it.

What’s one of the things that he helped guide you through with the host duties?

I think the confidence that he’s instilled in me to do it, because I don’t think confidence comes naturally to me often. When you walk into hosting a live show, you know there’s going to be two thousand people that have their eyes on you and that you are responsible to entertain. I think, if you asked me about that a year or two years ago, I would’ve said, "Oh my gosh, I don’t think I can do that." But now, because of his insights and skills and techniques that he’s taught me, I walk out on stage very confident. And I would give that to him.

And are people actually finding love during these live shows?

They are! I think, because it’s the first year, we didn’t know to invest so much into the follow-up with each couple. We set these couples up, we find them a connection, we wish them the best and then we move onto the next city. The follow-up’s been difficult because they all go off and do their own thing, but I will tell you this: There’s a story we have from a show we did last week. After the show, I walked back to my dressing room, and one of the producers says, "Hey, try to keep it down a little bit; the couple is in the dressing room behind you, just having a few hours to chat." So I think these relationships are really working. I think there’s a great possibility that there will be really fun relationships made. It’s just right now it’s hard to say because we’re only two weeks in.

It’s fun – and it’s fun for the audience to see, because they can see it tangibly in front of them if a connection can exist or not. We’ve had crowds totally rip on the Bachelor because they don’t think he’s investing his time into it correctly – and I kinda like that! That makes it fun.

Speaking of people ripping on the Bachelor, what’ve you made of this season with Peter as "The Bachelor"? Do you see one biggest mistake he’s made this season, as someone who lived it?

I just think he allowed himself to get involved in the chaos too much. Peter’s a great dude; he’s a nice guy, he cares a lot and he really wants to see this work. But I think all of those things also hurt him in the process of going through "The Bachelor" because "The Bachelor" is hard. It’s difficult and you have to put your foot down. And I think where he failed was putting his foot down enough and early enough. It’s not a terrible characteristic; I just think it hurt him in the long run.

Speaking to someone who’s actually experienced the show, how does one mentally balance falling in love with multiple people at the same time, going on similar dates? How does one compartmentalize like that?

It’s hard. You do it by understanding the environment you’re in, being present in the environment and the situation you've offered yourself to. If I’ve agreed to go on the show, I know that there’s a possibility that I could fall for multiple people because I’m dating multiple people. I’m opening myself up to that. If I go on this show, I’m realizing that I’m going to experience feelings and emotions that are unlike anything I’ve experienced in the real world because I’ve never dated like this in the real world. There are some very common and clear things that happen on the show that just don’t exist in your everyday life. And I think, as a result of that, it’s easier to accept why you’re falling for multiple people.

Then the balancing of it? I don’t know if there is one. I think it’s messed up. I think it’s hard. I think it’s unnatural in a sense... from anything that we’re used to. So you just keep plugging through it the best you can, knowing it’s going to feel weird and awkward the whole time.

Yeah, we recently had fantasy suite week on Peter’s season, and I always find that week really challenging as a viewer because it’s the Bachelor talking to three separate people very emotionally, but very similarly. Do you ever feel like a scumbag in those moments, telling multiple women that you love them?

I guess I’d feel less like a scumbag telling them that I love them than saying that I hate them and I want to use them, objectify them. 

I think love is expressed out of respect, admiration, care, concern out of wanting what’s best for them, deeply acknowledging that they are a human that you’re interested in and intrigued by. Love comes from a deep level of awe of a human. A scumbag would look at another person and say that I don’t have respect or admiration or care for you. So, do I believe that telling three women that you love them is healthy and good and probably wise? No. Would I associate it with being a scumbag? Not at all.

What’s the number one misconception of "The Bachelor" that you would want to clear up?

I think the assumptions are always that it’s scripted or fake or super overly produced – and it’s just not. I would always say that I want people to know is that these are real people with real emotions, trying their best to navigate a super awkward situation – not only for our entertainment as fans but also for their love stories and lives.

So what I would want people to know is that these are real people. Sometimes criticisms toward the lead is something that just comes natural to the show, but the bullying and the lack of care that these are humans. It’s disrespectful. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.

Obviously they announced the new star of "The Bachelorette": Clare Crawley. What are your thoughts on her as a choice?

She’s great. My take is that it’s going to be a really interesting and good season for the show, because it’s going to increase the age – which is needed and important. It’s getting back to where we started with "The Bachelor," where we were really finding people who’d given it their best shot in regular life to find love and maybe it just didn’t happen, and that the show was an answer to maybe a prayer, a desire, a need, a cry to help them find a relationship and find love. That’s what the show started as, and that’s what we’re going to get back to, I think, with Clare’s season. And I hope it’s something that continues for a while.

It excites me, I’m ready for this and I’m ready to see an older demographic participate in the show. I think it’s going to be really healthy for the show – and I think Clare is going to be the catalyst to a whole new generation of "Bachelor" seasons.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.