BWW Reviews: The Denver Center's THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER - Simply Magical
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER by Mark Twain and adapted for the stage by Laura Eason is currently delighting audiences at the Denver Center until December 18th. This classic follows Tom Sawyer and his parter in crime Huckleberry Finn as they live out their childhood adventures together.
So I know I may be dating myself, but does anyone remember Jim Henson's Faerie Tale Theatre with Shelley Duvall? Well, the enchanting, Tolkien-esque fantasy world of that show reminds me of the playfulness that is THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER. As Twain himself wrote more than a hundred years ago, “The elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time.”
You said it, Sam...I Mean Mark!
Entering the theater, we are met with a Stage Holding nothing but a giant book of the Twain classic. From that point on, this show (in almost a minstrel narrator style) truly delights with its artistic charm. The actors bring their characters to life, playing up their parts with boisterous enthusiasm and dramatic stage blocking. This kid-friendly adaptation (5+) boasts several stage magic effects that will make you smile, including pop-up flowers, graveyard stones, and the magical cave scene all leading up to the glittering end.
Almost everyone knows the story of adventurous Tom, Huck, Becky, and evil Injun Joe, and this adaptation stays true to the basic elements of Twain’s story without delving too deeply into the darker personality and plot points of the original book. All of the young adult actors are older than the kid-characters they play, but manage to maintain an air of wide-eyed innocence throughout. Stanton Nash (Tom Sawyer) is superb and keeps the boy mischief energy up from beginning to end. Blake Lowell as Tom’s cohort in trouble-making Huckleberry Finn is also stellar, and Caitlin Wise as the adorable scrapper Becky Thatcher brings smart exuberance to her part. Rachel Fowler as Aunt Polly and Stephen Weitz as Muff Potter anchor the pace and plot in the two main adult
While the set looks simple, the surprising complexity comefrom the gallows below and the ceiling above. It’s obvious scenic designer Vicki Smith gave this one a lot of thought – even the scene transitions support the already magical world, infusing it with additional doses of childlike whimsy. Lighting designer Charles R. Macleod, projection designer Charlie I. Miller, and sound designer Jason Ducat make the cave scene something to behold. Even with a bare stage, through strategic lighting, deliberate sound effects, and the implementation of shadows to imply stage movement, the audience could viscerally experience the dark dampness of the cave that Tom and Becky get lost in. More suspenseful than scary, this bit of stage technique is a remarkable feat worth witnessing for yourself. The original music and arrangements by Gary Grundei wonderfully support this play
with scene-appropriate atmosphere. This production team deserves props for remembering that a multisensory experience can bring a show to life all around the audience members.
This is a fun and youthful ensemble worth watching over the next few years. Major kudos to director Jane Page for choosing talent that can handle the demands of child-like wonder while offering mature insight at the same time. And while the show may seem a bit long for a children’s play, the superb acting and consistent action override the length, with many fun twists and turns along the way. It was gratifying to see so many kids and adults of all ages in the audience, and the ingenious scheduling on the part of the Denver Center (weekend matinees!) just may be the key to capturing the attention and imagination of a new generation of theatergoers.
This show is true family fun, so go see this beloved classic! THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER plays at The Denver Center’s Space Theatre until December 18th. For tickets or information, contact the Denver Center at 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.
PHOTO CREDITS: Terry Shapiro
Blake Lowell as Tom Sawyer and Stanton Nash as Huckleberry Finn
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