Ben Fankhauser, Phillip Boykin and More Lead BIG RIVER, Beginning Tonight at Music Circus

The 65th Music Circus season continues with the dynamic musical Big River, Mark Twain's masterwork "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" brought to toe-tapping musical life by the genius behind "King of the Road," Roger Miller. Performances are tonight, June 23 through Sunday, June 28.

The cast includes fresh and veteran Broadway faces and Music Circus favorites, some of whom are currently performing in My Fair Lady, which runs at Music Circus through June 14. In Big River, a Tony Award-winning adventure that's both poignant and humorous, Huck and Jim take to the mighty Mississippi on a journey of hope and self-discovery. Playing for the first time at Music Circus in 20 years, the musical includes the songs "Muddy Water" and "Waitin' for the Light to Shine."

Tickets for Big River range from $40 to $83, and are available by phone at (916) 557-1999, online at, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street in Sacramento. Evening performances June 23 - 28 are Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For more information visit

In this musical adaptation of the classic novel, Huck will be played by Ben Fankhauser (pictured), who was an original performer in Newsies on Broadway and toured as Ernst in Spring Awakening. Phillip Boykin, who is currently starring in the Broadway revival of On the Town and who was a Tony Award-nominee for his role in Porgy and Bess, joins the cast as Jim after delighting Music Circus audiences as Joe in the 2013 production of Show Boat. William Parry, playing The King, originated roles in ten Broadway productions, including Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George and Passion, and has performed alongside powerhouses Bernadette Peters and Meryl Streep. The role of The Duke will be played by Broadway's diverse Jeff Skowron who has performed comedic roles in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast and won an Ovation Award for his portrayal of Leo Frank in Parade in L.A. And featured is Jennifer Leigh Warren, Alice's Daughter from the original Broadway cast of Big River and the original Crystal from Little Shop of Horrors, returning to Music Circus as Alice; she will be singing "How Blest We Are," the song originally written for her by Roger Miller.

Doug Carfrae, returning to Music Circus to play Judge Thatcher, Harvey Wilkes and Silas Phelps, has not only performed on Broadway in Music Is and The Pajama Game, but also spent six years in Las Vegas in The Phantom of the Opera. Playing Alice's Daughter is Quebecer Chanel Edwards-Frédérick, who is making her Music Circus debut this season in My Fair Lady after performing in numerous other regional productions. Sacramento's own Danielle Hansen recently toured with Shirley Jones in The Music Man - In Concert and is coming back to Music Circus for her third season, as Joanna Wilkes. The roles of Pap Finn and Sheriff Bell will be played by Broadway veteran Rich Hebert, who was part of the original cast of Sting's new musical, The Last Ship, which played this season on Broadway, and who previously toured in Billy Elliot, which came through Sacramento in 2013 as part of the Broadway Sacramento Series.

Playing Mary Jane Wilkes in her Music Circus debut will be soloist Lizzie Klemperer, who has sung with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Florida Symphony, and toured in The Addams Family and Little House on the Prairie. Playing Tom Sawyer will be James Michael Lambert, who has performed in the national tours of Mamma Mia! and Happy Days and in a number of regional theatre productions across the country in addition to film and television roles. Playing Jo Harper is Michael McGurk, who has appeared on Broadway in The Wedding Singer and The Music Man, back for his seventh season at Music Circus, where he previously performed in The Music Man, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Bye Bye Birdie. Having toured in Joseph ... Dreamcoat as Judah, Music Circus veteran Ivory McKay will take his place in the ensemble after performing in My Fair Lady.

Playing Sally Phelps and Widow Douglas will be Mary Jo Mecca, who is currently playing Mrs. Pearce in My Fair Lady and has performed in a number of regional theatre productions across the country in addition to film and television roles. After performing on Broadway in Irving Berlin's White Christmas and touring in The Little Mermaid, Dennis O'Bannion is back in his home state to perform at Music Circus as Simon and Young Fool. The roles of Dick and Andy will be played by Andy Richardson, who was a member of the original Broadway casts of Newsies, Gypsy starring Patti LuPone and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Angelina Sark, playing Miss Watson and Susan Wilkes, was recently seen on the New York stage in Sitting Pretty and is returning to Music Circus this season for the first time since 2008. Playing Mark Twain, Lafe, Counselor Robinson and Doctor is Shannon Stoeke, who has toured nationally in Camelot, Peter Pan and Hair and is celebrating his eighth season at Music Circus. Sam Tanabe, who has performed in Red Eye of Love off-Broadway, is coming to Music Circus for his first season and will be playing Ben Rogers and Hank. Banzai from the national of tour of The Lion King and in the cast of this season's Music Circus production of My Fair Lady, Sacramento's own Omari Tau joins the ensemble.

Directing Big River in his Music Circus debut is Michael Heitzman, a multi-award-nominated director and current resident director of the Lucille Lortel Awards who has co-written two musicals, VICES: A Love Story, which was nominated for eight Jefferson Awards, and Bingo! The Winning Musical, which was produced at The Cosmopolitan Cabaret in 2011. Also making his Music Circus debut is Emmy Award-winning choreographer AC Ciulla, who choreographed Footloose on Broadway, has extensive regional experience, choreographs for the Ukrainian "So You Think You Can Dance" and has made special appearances on "Dance Moms." Musical Director Andrew Bryan has conducted the national tours of LES MISERABLES, Chicago and Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, as well as dozens of other musicals for theatres across the country and internationally; he's back at Music Circus after conducting Miss Saigon in 2011.

Music Circus is produced under the leadership of Artistic Director Glenn Casale and Executive Producer Scott Klier. California Musical Theatre President and CEO is Richard Lewis.

Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson

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