BWW Reviews: BIG RIVER at Music Circus Delivers Big Emotions

BWW Reviews: BIG RIVER at Music Circus Delivers Big Emotions

"Big River" at Sacramento Music Circus is the show to see this summer. Director Michael Heitzman makes optimal use of the company's round stage, working with choreographer AC Ciulla to balance an amusing first act with a heavier second half.

At the heart of the Mark-Twain-inspired tale, audience members witness the evolution of Huckleberry Finn's morality, as well as slave, Jim's quest for freedom. Along the way, Heitzman adds bits of delight with stuffed hogs, dancing "Guv'ment" men and a giant breast courtesy of costume designer Marcy Froehlich. Pamila Gray's lighting design beautifully spotlights the adventures of Huck and Jim, who take a raft down the river and meet humorous characters like con-men Duke (Jeff Skowron) and King (William Parry). Lizzie Klemperer gives a memorable performance as Mary Jane Wilkes in her grieving "You Oughta Be Here With Me," while Jennifer Leigh Warren prompts Goosebumps with astounding versions of "The Crossing" and "How Blest We Are."

The production's overall aesthetic reaches beyond description with its honest staging and deep probing in issues of race, friendship and virtue. When Phillip Boykin's Jim throws off his chains one last time and slowly begins to run toward his new future, two and a half hours of overwhelming theatre come to a poignant and hopeful end. Broadway talents Boykin and Ben Fankhauser as Huck steal the show with their endearing camaraderie and striking vocals in a masterpiece musical. Every detail, from wardrobe to scenic and light design, contributes to a complete whole. The California Musical Theatre production left Tuesday's opening audience enthralled. They laughed. They cried. They even gave James Michael Lambert's Tom Sawyer a "Hand for the Hog."

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BIG RIVER
Through June 28
Music Circus
http://www.californiamusicaltheatre.com/

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