Lyric’s “Big River” is a Big Hit!
“Big River” is a delightful musical adapted from Mark Twain’s classic ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and is a generous example of American development. The storyline follows young Huckleberry on his runaway journey from the untenable kindness of the Widow Douglas. He meets up with Jim, a runaway slave and the two young men adventurously travel the Mississippi River on a raft. Ultimately they both find freedom, adventure and a measure of happiness.
The adaptation from the Theatre for Young Audiences Edition is comfortably short with a running time of approximately 70 minutes and no intermissions. The story line remains completely intact although there are slight changes. Those changes include deleting any offensive language and bringing Jim closer to Huck’s age but the musicality and story retains the power of Mark Twain’s great story. The book is by William Hauptman with Music & Lyrics by Roger Miller. Also new arrangements and orchestrations are by William Yanesh. Lyric Theatre Artistic Director, Michael Baron, directs “Big River” with a practiced eye for the younger audience. Set Designer is Deb Sevigny and she has created a spectacular environment immediately establishing the perfect mood for the characters. Jeffrey Meek extends the authenticity with excellent costuming. Patti Kalil is Props Designer. Sandra Thompson is Musical Director, allowing all cast members to achieve their highest goals in vocal musicality. Baron is able to take full advantage of Associate Director Monique Midgette, Assistant Director Lauren Harrison and Stage Manager Hannah Maner. Lighting Designer is Fabian J. Garcia and Sound Designer is Corey Ray.
The cast consists of eight talented performers backed up by five equally proficient understudies. Baron has assembled a group of tight knit performers who are able to profoundly bring Mark Twain’s vision to life. Alex Rodriguez is Huckleberry Finn, a young man who reveals the scamp in Huckleberry and all boys with all the charm Twain envisioned. Alongside him is Maximus White as Jim and he performs with maximum ability, stability and vigor. Rodriguez and White exhibit positive chemistry along with a natural rambunctiousness that is stimulating to the audience. White’s character exhibits a slightly more tempered and cautious approach in maturity, while Rodriguez has greater ebullience. The two are paired ideally and make the most of it in age yet with balanced personalities.
Elizabeth Dragoo is the Widow Douglas, a woman past her prime with a tendency towards irritability. She also has a heart of gold, but too much of the time keeps that heart locked away and Dragoo shows us the combination effortlessly. Greg Gore is Judge Hatcher and conveys a certain distinguished attitude in spite of his youth. Joining Huck and Jim on their raft for the journey are a couple of ne’er do wells identifying themselves as The King and The Duke. Mariah Warren is a great king, given to the raised eyebrows of deceit in the con artist. Joshua Morgan Thompson is The Duke, complimenting the King mightily in their criminal endeavors. Emmalee Hamilton is Mary Jane played with the innocence of the age disguising the inner flirt and Nia Seer is Alice, played with great sincerity.
The entire cast is smooth and polished and the vocals are excellent. However it should be noted that the vocals of Nia Seer are more than excellent, her voice is quite magnificent and soars throughout the theatre.
Baron takes the audience on a journey with “Big River” a journey of discovery, and some of the qualities it takes to become a man-a good man. Huck is a lovable scoundrel and his education is spotty he is Twain’s creation exactly and all the characters in the show support this tale, this coming-of-age adventure, with joy and cheek. “Big River” is for big kids with tall ideas and expansive ideals and should not be missed for those growing up and those who are still growing up.
“Big River” runs at Lyric on the Plaza location at 1727 NW 16th Street in the quaint Plaza District of Oklahoma City. For information and tickets visit Tickets@LyricTheatreOKC.org or call 405-524-9312. Showtimes are Thursday and Friday at 10, Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 5 running through March 11. Make reservations and take your favorite adventurer!