BWW Reviews: BIG RIVER A Rapid Raft Ride to Understanding
THE ADVENTURE OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain is a classic, even if it has had to deal with opposition since its original publishing, and BIG RIVER is a perfect musical adaptation of the book. It unreservedly deals with abusive parenting, racism, lying, cheating, and human value. In a very thought-out introduction, director R Ed Davis and the cast explained their decision to stay true to history and the literature, using certain 19th century vernacular. I felt that not only was it appropriate, but it enhanced the effect of the villains and the change of heart in Huck.
DJ Klick (Huck) was energetic and engaging. I was amazed at how believable the friendship was between Huck and Tom, but shouldn't have been surprised that they were played by brothers. Younger brother, Jesse Klick, was able to not only keep up with his brother, but at all the right moments, commanded the attention of the audience in a very natural way. These two both had great comedic timing and charm. Reprising his role of runaway slave Jim, Frankie Darra brought a level of mature sincerity to the play. I was particularly moved by the narrative of his interactions with his daughter.
Jeremy Gross (Duke) and Dale Hoopes (King) expertly played two prison-escapees who lie, cheat, and steal their way along. Not once dropping character, Jeremy was so committed to his role that it was incredibly hard to watch other people when he was on stage. Other noteworthy performances came from Pap Finn (Wes Simmonds), Judge Thatcher (Jerad Fillingim), and Michelle Davis. The combination of the staging and Michelle's voice made The Crossing a particularly chilling song and great addition to the performance.
The costumes were good, and there were very few technical issues. One very noticeable problem came when the raft, which was raised and lowered by pneumatic pump and moved on wheels, almost tipped over. However, not only did Huck and Jim recover their ground quickly, they seamlessly improvised a few lines to cover the flub and move the story forward.
Although I am generally inclined toward big, flashy musical endings, the understated closing to BIG RIVER left the audience with a moment to reflect. Huck simply signed "light now shining," and left the stage with a smile and a nod. I loved it!
There are still 12 performances left of BIG RIVER and I encourage you all to go. Visit www.starlightmt.com for more information or call Angie at 208-462-5523 for tickets.