Big River (musical)

Big River (musical)

Infobox Musical
name=Big River
subtitle=The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

caption=Original Cast Recording
music=Roger Miller
lyrics=Roger Miller
book=William Hauptman
basis="The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", novel by Mark Twain
productions=1985 Broadway
2003 Broadway revival
2004 US Tour
2008 East Haddam, Connecticut (planned)
awards= Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Score

"Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is a musical with a book by William Hauptman and music and lyrics by Roger Miller.

Based on Mark Twain's classic 1884 novel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", it features music in the bluegrass and country styles in keeping with the setting of the novel. The Broadway production ran for over 1,000 performances and it remained a truly American voice in an emerging chorus of British musicals of the late 1980s. [ [ Stage Musicals 1980s - Part 2 ] ]


The first productions were staged by the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts in February 1984 [ Plotkins, Marilyn [ "The American Repertory Theatre Reference Book" (2005),] Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0313289131, p. 44] and at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, from June through July 1984. [ [ LaJolla Playhouse history] ]

The Broadway production, directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Janet Watson, opened on April 25 1985 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, and closed on September 20, 1987, running for 1,005 performances. The cast featured René Auberjonois as The Duke, John Goodman as Pap Finn, Daniel H. Jenkins as Huckleberry Finn, Ron Richardson as Jim, with Susan Browning, Gordon Connell, Bob Gunton, Patti Cohenour, and John Short. After twenty-eight previews, a critically acclaimed revival, directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun, opened on Broadway on July 24 2003 at the American Airlines Theatre, where it ran for 67 performances. This production, staged by the Roundabout Theatre Company and Deaf West Theatre, was notable in that it featured both deaf and hearing actors performing together. About half the characters, including the leading role of Huck, were played by deaf or hard-of-hearing performers. All dialogue and lyrics in the production were both spoken or sung and signed, making the production equally accessible to hearing and deaf audiences. The character of Mark Twain (portrayed by Daniel H. Jenkins, who created the role of Huck in the original Broadway cast) was expanded, so that that actor also provided the voice of Huck, portrayed by Tyrone Giordano, who is deaf.

It was remounted for a U.S. tour, which ran from June 11 2004 to May 31 2005 and included most of the Broadway cast, and was nominated for several regional awards. A production ran at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. from March 18 to June 4, 2005.

Goodspeed Musicals announced a major production of the musical to take place at the historic Connecticut theater. The production will be directed by Rob Ruggiero and will run Sept. 26 to Nov. 29, 2008. ["The Hartford Courant", Frank Rizzo, 10/1/07]


Act One

In pre-Civil War Missouri, near St. Petersburg, Huckleberry Finn, "Widder" Douglas, Miss Watson, Judge Thatcher, and Huck's best friend Tom Sawyer inform Huck that he needs to learn to read and write and read the bible if he ever hopes to go to heaven ("Do Ya Wanna Go To Heaven?"). Exasperated with the constraints on his daily life, Huck escapes his bedtime and steals to the hideout of Tom. In the cave, the two and a bunch of their friends sing of all the escapades they'll perpetrate on their way to the bad place ("The Boys").

After expressing his wish to escape his hometown ("Waitin' For the Light To Shine"), Huck returns home in the darkness to find his Pap waiting for him, who drags him off to his cabin in the woods. In his drunkenness, Pap swings from tomfoolery to extreme violence as he rails against a government that would take his son from him ("Guv'ment"). He attempts to kill Huck, but passes out in an inebriated mess. Huck, grabbing the chance to escape, kills a pig and scatters the blood and gore around the cabin in an effort to make it appear as if he's been murdered. Huck is being quickly forced to grow up, while Tom attempts to remain a boy ("Hand For the Hog").

Alone on Jackson's Island, Huck asserts his self-assurance ("I, Huckleberry, Me") But Huck isn't alone; Miss Watson's slave, Jim, is there as well. He has run away to avoid being sold down the River to New Orleans. Huck offers to help Jim reach freedom in the North. A posse is after Jim: with only moments to spare, they find a raft and get it afloat in the of the mighty Mississippi River ("Muddy Water").

Jim and Huck travel only at night and don't get far from Jackson's Island before they are reminded of the seriousness of their actions: a boat carrying runaway slaves back to their masters passes them in the night ("The Crossing"). The days are long as the two forge their way down the river. As they sing of the beauty of the River ("River In the Rain") in a fog, they sail past the mouth of the Ohio — their path to freedom. Soon they are set upon by the King and the Duke — two con artists who commandeer the small raft as they escape the latest mob on their tail. For many of the same reasons Huck is drawn to Tom, he is intrigued by the delinquent "royals". The King and the Duke agree to sell Jim back into slavery for their own profit, unbeknownst to Huck ("When the Sun Goes Down In the South").

Act Two

Huck, the Duke, and the King wash ashore in Bicktown, Arkansas, and attempt to fleece the rubes they find. The Duke and King come up with a scheme to make money ("The Royal Nonesuch"), tricking the townspeople. By the end of the evening, Huck can appreciate a new way of life — the three are now several hundred dollars richer. When he returns to the raft, Huck plays a horrible trick on Jim by assuming the guise of a slave hunter. Unamused, Jim rebukes Huck for the first time. After some thought, Huck realizes that Jim, though a slave, is still a human being and deserves an apology ("Worlds Apart").

The King and Duke reappear to dragoon Huck into their next escapade. While Jim is, again, left alone with the raft, the three encounter a young fool on a dock, singing of his love of his home state ("Arkansas"). Through no fault of his own, he tells the conmen everything they need to know about a fortune to be inherited in the Wilkes family, and they crash the funeral as impostors to go about securing their riches ("How Blest We Are"). Huck — through it all a pure soul — sees that the beautiful and innocent Mary Jane Wilkes is being robbed of her rightful inheritance by these "rapscallions", and steals back her money from the King and the Duke as she mourns her father's coffin ("You Oughta Be Here With Me"). He quickly stuffs the gold into her father's coffin and hides behind it to avoid notice.

When Mary Jane realizes what Huck has done, she asks that he remain with her and become her friend. For the first time in his life, he is moved by the actions of another ("Leavin's Not the Only Way To Go"), yet he realizes that he has made a promise to Jim: one that transcends mere friendship. Huck returns again to the raft and finds the Duke tarred and feathered: he has sold Jim back into slavery for a mere forty dollars. Feeling guilty about what he has done, Huck pens a letter to Miss Watson, telling her where she can find the runaway Jim. After a momentary reprieve, Huck ends up feeling worse than ever. He tears up the letter and resolves to free Jim again, even if it means he will go to Hell ("Waiting For the Light To Shine" (Reprise)).

Tom arrives, after visiting his Aunt and Uncle Phelps, and decides to help Huck free Jim from his captors. They find him imprisoned in a tiny cell and work quickly to free him as he laments his desire to be free ("Free At Last"). As they free Jim, Tom is shot in the leg. Jim decides to continue his trek to the North so that he may buy his family out of slavery, and Huck decides to move West to escape any attempts to "civilize" him. They sit for a moment at the banks of the river, recalling their adventures together ("River In the Rain" (Reprise)). Jim leaves Huck alone for the last time, and Huck decides, "It was like the fortune Jim predicted long ago: considerable trouble and considerable joy."

The cast all assemble for curtain call and the reprise of "Muddy Water".

ong list

;Act I
*Overture — Big River Orchestra
*Do You Wanna Go to Heaven — Company
*The Boys — Tom Sawyer and The Gang
*Waitin' for the Light to Shine — Huck
*Guv'ment — Pap
*Hand For the Hog — Tom Sawyer (this number was cut for the revival)
*I, Huckleberry, Me — Huck
*Muddy Water — Jim and Huck
*The Crossing — Slaves and Overseer
*River in the Rain — Huck and Jim
*When the Sun Goes Down in the South — Duke, King and Huck;Act II
* Ent'racte — Big River Orchestra
*The Royal Nonesuch — Duke and Company
*Worlds Apart — Jim and Huck
*Arkansas — A Young Fool
*How Blest We Are — Alice's Daughter and Company
*You Oughta Be Here With Me — Mary Jane Wilkes, Susan Wilkes and Joanna Wilkes
*How Blest We Are (Reprise) — Company
*Leavin's Not the Only Way to Go — Mary Jane Wilkes, Jim and Huck
*Waitin' for the Light to Shine (Reprise) — Huck
*Free At Last — Jim
*River in the Rain (Reprise) — Huck and Jim
*Muddy Water (Reprise) — Company

Awards and nominations

Original production
*Tony Award for Best Musical (winner)
*Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical (winner)
*Tony Award for Best Original Score (winner)
*Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (winner)
*Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Richardson, winner; Jenkins and Auberjonois, nominees)
*Tony Award for Best Scenic Design (winner)
*Tony Award for Best Costume Design (nominee)
*Tony Award for Best Lighting Design (winner)
*Theatre World Award (Cohenour, winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Richardson, winner; Jenkins, nominee)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Auberjonois, winner; Short, Gunton, and Goodman, nominees)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Cohenour, nominee)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestration (winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics (winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design (winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design (winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design (winner) 2003 revival
*Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical (nominee)
*Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael McElroy, nominee)
*Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre (winner)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical (nominee)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Giordano and McElroy, nominees)
*Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical (nominee)


External links

* [ R&H Theatricals listing]
* [ NODANW listing]
* [ Plot summary & character descriptions for Big River]
* [ Theatre Cedar Rapids Big River Photo Gallery]
* [ Information and photos from Deaf West's production]
* [ Information from the Stephen Foster website]

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