Tom Sawyer Musical RIVER SONG Will Premiere at Niswonger Performing Arts Center

Tom Sawyer Musical RIVER SONG Will Premiere at Niswonger Performing Arts Center

"Tom Sawyer" is getting a musical makeover, with help from Academy Award-winning composer Richard M. Sherman and his late brother Robert B. Sherman ("Mary Poppins"), as well as two other Hollywood notables: Kathy Garver ("Family Affair") and Drake Light ("The Walking Dead").

"River Song: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," a new stage adaptation of Mark Twain's classic novel, will premiere at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville, Tennessee, January 23 and 24. The production incorporates songs from the 1973 Reader's Digest movie "Tom Sawyer," for which the Sherman brothers received a second Academy Award nomination.

"It's an indescribable feeling, to have such a vote of confidence from Richard M. Sherman," said Gerald Maloy, the Tennessee-based playwright and director who is spearheading the new production. "He previously allowed me to use his songs from the Disney film 'Summer Magic' in a stage adaptation two years ago. That project was so successful that he offered me his songs from 'Tom Sawyer.'"

Maloy, who is the choral/theater director at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center and former theatre professor at nearby Walters State Community College, had long wanted to develop a stage production based on "Tom Sawyer."

"When I read 'Tom Sawyer' as a teenager, it immediately became one of my favorite books," he said. "I love how Tom grows in maturity in subtle ways, which you don't realize until the end. We have a terrific cast that includes regional actors and some film and television actors."

Maloy is pulling triple duty in this production. In addition to writing and directing, he will play the role of Muff Potter, following the withdrawal of actor Jeff East, due to an injury.

"River Song" stars Ty Youngblood as Tom and Wyatt Valentine as Huck. The production also features Kathy Garver as Aunt Polly. Garver is best known for her role as Cissy on the classic CBS sit-com "Family Affair."

"Having worked with Jerry Maloy on 'Summer Magic,' I know this dedicated director is committed to excellence," Garver added. "His musical arrangements and book for 'River Song' are fantastic. Having raised a son myself, I know how short is that precious time when a boy grows to be a man. I think people who see this show will leave with a smile on their face."

"River Song: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" will be performed January 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, 212 Tusculum Blvd, Greeneville, TN 37745. Tickets are $15, $20 and $25. For information, call 423-638-1679 or visit

Ty Youngblood (Tom Sawyer), Wyatt Valentine (Huckleberry Finn), Alec Phillips (Ben Rodgers), Matthew Fisher (Joe Harper), Jake Hartman (Billy Fisher), Migel Bobadilla (Fred Miller), Drake Light (Homer Harper), Joe Sellars (Balladeer/Mark Twain), Mike Lilly (Mr. Walters), Brad Davidson (Judge Thatcher), Michael Fillers (Mr. Barnes), David Brannock (Mr. Dobbins), David Branam (Doc Robinson), Seth Smith (Injun Joe), Eli Burney (Cousin Sid), Deborah Seidel (Mz. Harper), Clyde Dunn (Counsel/Prosecution), Calvin Robinson (Counsel/Defense), Logan Mack (Witness #2), Wyatt Farr (Sheriff), Annika Burley (Becky Thatcher), Rachael Hopkins (Mary Sawyer), Laura Woody (Amy Lawrence), Hannah Kolb (Mary Austin), Kathy Garver (Aunt Polly), Gerald Maloy (Muff Potter), Alice Lafever (Mz. Harper), Becky Davidson (Mrs. Thatcher), Mirian Robinson (Witness #3), Sheila Balch (Singer), Ethan Hogan (Singer), Dalton Evans (Singer), Dalton Evans (Singer), Amanda Short (Presbyterian soloist), Stephanie Williams (Presbyterian soloist); Youth Singers: Rachel Woody, Erica Tolcholke, Carly Williams, Ani Werderitch, Sophia Wakefield, Ally McNabb, Ellie Beth Youngblood, Tereva Cannon; Dancers: Isabella Norton, Kaylee Clark, Harley Ramsey, Carley Bowen, Eric Maloy, Matthew Worley, Michael Worley, Judah Ortega

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