A darkened stage and the sound of a soulful bluegrass band transports the audience back to a simpler time on the Mississippi River. A man in white 1800s garb meanders across the stage, scribbling on a piece of paper. Wait, was that Mark Twain? Indeed it was. Thus begins the epic story of Twain's Huckleberry Finn in the musical
Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
at Holy Cross High School.
Huck (Jimmy Magrann) is a poor boy who lives in rural St. Petersburg, Missouri in the early 1800s. The original production of Big River was staged in 1985 and won seven Tony awards. In 2003, the play was revived with both deaf and hearing actors as it was performed in sign language.
The play opens as the Widow Douglas adopts Huck, but soon Huck's Pap appears. He runs away from his old life and finds Jim (Shawn Kyle), a runaway slave trying to row his way to freedom on a makeshift raft. Soon, Huck and Jim have adventures all over the south.
Magrann's passionate portrayal of Huck suggests that he just jumped out of the book, southern accent and all. Huck was portrayed as an ignorant and innocent boy who ponders what it means to be good. Kyle made a wonderful Jim with a deep voice and passion for the role. Both Jim and Huck had wonderful chemistry.
Featured performers added their own special flair to Huck Finn's world. The first attention grabbers were the con artists claiming to be the Duke of Bridgewater (Jonathan Joaquin) and the Dauphin of France (Will Grogan). This Duke and Dauphin were a dynamic duo who strung together hilarious lies. Another excellent performer was Mary Pinter, who played Mary Jane Wilkes, a young woman who had just lost her father. Pinter shows Mary Jane is a gentle soul who attempts to stay strong for her two sisters.
The set was simple and left a lot to the imagination. The whole stage was homage to the book with illustrations from the book hanging everywhere, two pages taken from the book in giant form, and a large cover center stage. The lighting and sound was adequate. Sometimes there were a few mishaps, but the crew quickly fixed issues.
Overall, Big River is a classic tale of adventure, passion, oppression, and a young boy's coming of age as he's crossing the "Muddy Water."