SHOWING : September 10, 2008 - October 05, 2008
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
The winner of 7 Tony Awards, Big River is pure Americana, based on Mark Twain’s timeless narrative. Hitch a wild-ride to freedom with Huck and his friend Jim, as they maneuver the unexpected, often dangerous, twists and turns of both the Mighty Mis’issip’ and the shifting social currents of the 1840s frontier. Big River, directed by Heidi Cline, with musical direction by S. Renee Clark and choreography by Jeff McKerley, is Theatrical Outfit’s largest-scale production ever and features “King of Country Music” Roger Miller’s captivating score—a blend of country, blue-grass and gospel music—and the novel’s most indelible characters.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Saturday, October 11, 2008 ||
I was totally astounded by Big River. It was my first time seeing it and I have never been so impressed by an Atlanta theater company. The cast was so versatile and the energy permeated through the audience. Brandon as Huck Finn was incredible. He nailed those tight and ridiculously high harmonies. It gave me chills. Eric as Jim was moving and powerful in songs like "Free at Last". Their relationship was one of the highlights of the show for me. My favorite numbers were "Muddy Water", "River in the Rain", "Worlds Apart", "Leavin's Not the Only Way to Go" (Very powerful trio). |
Wouldn't be surprised to see this cast's performance in New York. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
"Big River"--Big Show|
Saturday, September 27, 2008 ||
Theatrical Outfit’s “Big River” delivers a good evening at the theatre. The show is big, energetic, well-staged, well-sung and admirably performed. The Balzer Theatre is certainly a wonderful asset to the city of Atlanta, and TO’s productions are consistently high quality, worth the trip into the city, and offered at reasonable prices.|
Based on an American literary masterwork (Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”), “Big River” has a clever, imaginative score by the late Roger Miller which perfectly matches the tone of Twain’s classic—and TO presents both admirably. There are a few mis-steps—mostly having to do with casting. Watching the ensemble men, led by Tom Sawyer, sing and dance “The Boys”—it was obvious the boys were a little long in the tooth for the kind of antics and dialogue they were tossing around. Shortly after, though, the men morphed into other roles and contributed to the show in a most positive way. Rob Lawhon, seen mostly as Tom Sawyer, is unfortunately mis-cast in the role. Mr. Lawhon, so very, very good in TO’s “Lost Highway” (as Hank Williams) is obviously a most talented man but this was not a good choice for him. Tom’s antics and language (particularly as performed in the broad, exaggerated style of the show) just seemed inappropriate and out of place coming from a mature man.
The other casting mis-step (and I know I’m dodging lightning bolts here) is Tom Key as Pap, Huck’s father—or rather his performance of “Guv’ment”. His delivery of the number was mugging to the max, and it seemed to be Tom Key mugging and not Pap. "Guv'ment" was jammed with so much grunting and straining that the song itself was lost. The audience seemed a little uncomfortable as well, with scattered laughter which seemed forced, as if to say “we’ve gotta laugh…it’s Tom Key!”
However, once he moved into the role of The King, it was a different story. Mr. Key and Jeff McKerley (who choreographed) were a thoroughly entertaining duo, and their “When the Sun Goes Down in the South” was a rousing highlight and crowdpleaser. It was great fun watching two of Atlanta’s favorite actors together—obviously having such fun themselves.
The ensemble was also one of the show’s highlights—singing, moving and acting beautifully…as well as serving as the show’s instrumentalists, just as beautifully. The show was full of great small moments and small touches provided by the ensemble (though I wonder how the folks of Arkansas would feel about how they were portrayed). Only one quibble: the number in which the runaway slaves are returned south was a bit bizarre. The group, at gunpoint and singing beautifully, were behind a short wall and were moved from one side of the stage to the other in a way that made you wonder: Are they moonwalking? Or headed to Concourse C at Hartsfield Airport?
Finally, Brandon O’Dell and Eric Moore were outstanding in their roles as Huck and Jim. Mr. Moore has a truly magnificent, rich voice. Mr. O’Dell’s exuberance and humor, with perfectly executed asides to the audience that were sometimes nothing more than a sly smile or sidelong glance, gave the show a wonderful center. Their delivery of “Worlds Apart”, with Huck gently washing Jim’s face and feet after his humiliation at the hands of the King and Duke, was a beautiful high point.
The show is too long (it begins to wear thin during the last 30 minutes) and ends rather oddly and abruptly (though the cast redeemed that with their choreographed curtain call). But Theatrical Outfit’s “Big River” is a very good production and faithful to the spirit of both Mark Twain and composer Roger Miller—very much worth your time.
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
A Happy Journey With Huck and Jim|
Saturday, September 20, 2008 ||
Persons attemptin to find a motive in this review will be prosecuted.|
Persons attemptin to find wisdom in it will be banished.
Persons decidin to go or not to go see “Big River” based on it will be shot. Alright, ya aint gonna git shot, but ya deserve to be called an idjit, or to run for Congress. But I repeat myself.
Of course, the simple plan would be to jest come out and tell y’all that this is a darn good show with some foot-stompin songs ’n some fine down-the-Mississippi fellers ’n gals, ’n some roof-raisin singin ’n playin, ’n some real live story-tellin, ’n y’all should go see it. But where’s the adventure in that?
In point of fact, that was what I was a-gonna do, but, upon leavin the Ballzy The-A-ter at Herrens (‘n I hope you all find that as much of a mouthful as I do), I was struck on the back of the head by what felt like a Paul Bunyan baseball bat. When I come to mah senses, I found mahself tied up with a moonshine-soaked rag stuffed down my gullet, lyin in an open field under what would’ve been a star-filled sky if this warn ‘t Atlanta. In the distance, I heard some hymn-singin, you know the type that Baptists of all Religions love, what they think happens only in heaven but what the rest of know is really a punishment in the bad place.
Sittin over me was what had to be the purtiest lady that ever come down the river, wearin a sweet smile and a calico dress. She looked an awful lot like my lovely wife, but I knew it warn ‘t her cuz she was holdin a knife that come from a kchen somewhere, in other words, from a place my wife would never go. She leaned over me and cut the gag from mouth, givin me a whiff of a scent that must be what the walls o’ heaven are built from.
“Howdy!” she says.
“Howdy!” I says right back.
“Im sorry, but we have to keep you tied up out in this field for a spell.” Her voice sounded like … well, I ain’t never heard anythin so nice, so I cain’t tell ya what it sounded like.
“How come?” I says, which only proves that the silver-tongued ability I sometimes have with a word or phrase always deserts me when I’m with a purty gal.
“Well, y’all jest come from that play based on that book by that Mark Twain fella. He was a Godless heathen, and we cain’t let you write anythin that’ll get more people to go see it and fall down that razor-blade slidin board that takes em to the bad place. We have to keep you out here ‘til the play closes.”
I felt the tears pound outa my eyes and some o’ thet goopy stuff fill the back o’ mah nose. “Ya mean I gotta stay here a whole month? I cain’t see mah little girl ‘til October?”
“You have a little girl?”
“Sweet as button ’n cuter ‘n a moose! Don’t you folks think Daddies need to be with their little girls?”
She seemed confused. “Well, yeah, I recon, but we cain’t let you write about ‘Big River.’”
“Do you really think keepin me here will stop other people from writin about it? Do you think it’ll keep folks who have a mind to from goin to see it?”
“You’re deliberately tryin to confuse me, ain’t you?”
Well, I gotta tell you, seeing that pretty gal get all het up and weepy almost killed my resolve right then and there. I just wanted to lie back’n do anything she wanted me to, just to make her happy.
She stood up, looking down at me with a face full of judgment and a set o’ eyes full of confusion. “Let me go ask my Daddy, the Preacher! Dont you go no wheres.”
“Where am I gonna go, hog-tied like this?”
But, sure enough, as soon asshe walked off towards the hymn-singin, leaving a cloud of a smell straight from one o’ them dreams that leave a smile on yer face and a puzzled look in yer spouse’s eye, I rolled over ‘n wiggled through the tall grass. I musta been on a hill, cause I soon fell to my belly ’n rolled into a stream. Suckin in some humid summer air, I lay back ’n let the stream carry me to where the heck it wanted to go.
Several tributaries later, I knocked my head against a raft o’ some kind. I was pulled up by a pair o’ strong brown hands ’n found myself facin two fellers who could o’ been Huck and Jim themselves. Only they warn’t cause when these two tried to sing, it hurt the night so bad the loud Georgia bugs up’n drowned ‘em out. As played by Brandon Odell ’n Eric Moore, I knew that the real Huck ’n Jim could sing better ‘n any Baptist choir ’n could a story that’ll keep you wonderin what they could possibly do next.
Anyway, mah two rescuers decided to let me off before we got to the Chattahoochie which would no doubt jest eat through any raft made o’ natural materials, and went on their ugly-soundin ways, leaving me to find my way home from a strange part of town I couldn’t recognize.
Thinkin quickly, I wrote on a sign that I found in a trash heap between the stream and the highway, “Will write you a good review for a ride home.” Sure enough, I was soon picked up by this guy named McKerley, who played a preacher and the Duke in “Big River.” I got in his car,’n promised not to tell y’all about his “tar’n’feather” headpiece fallin off in Act II, or to at least mention that he and his partner-in-crime, Tom Key filled the play with the kind of nasty humor and high energy that make musicals such a pleasure to sit through. Of course, now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, I may not find anywheres here to write all that.
Soon enough, he got me home, where I gave my lovin wife ’n little girl a warm “Daddy’s Home” squeeze, and filled my stomach with a fine wine that drove the taste of rotted moonshine, the sound of Baptist sinnin, and the smell of heaven right from my memory. Cuz, after all, between mah two women-folk, I’ve had all the wildness driven right outa me, and I’ve become tamer than kitten filled with mouse-chow.
By the way, “Big River” is a darn good show with some foot-stompin songs ‘n some fine down-the-Mississippi fellers ‘n gals, ‘n some roof-raisin singin ‘n playin, ‘n some real live story-tellin, ‘n y’all should go see it.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Struggle by Girl|
| I just have to throw this out there...|
I completely understand where you were going with this review, but I still can't get through the whole thing. I've tried to read it maybe 5 times now, and I just don't have the focus to make it.
I think you liked the show, though? :)
| || Yup! by Dedalus|
| That would be a "Yup!"|
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)