Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Ford’s Theatre has ended its 2004 – 2005 season on a strong note with its presentation of Deaf West Theatre’s production of Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun, this inventive musical retelling of Mark Twain’s novel combines deaf and hearing actors to create a splendid theatrical experience.
Calhoun has incorporated sign language into the choreography and the result is quite beautiful at times. The deaf and hearing actors are perfectly in sync with each other and the use of hearing actors speaking and singing for deaf actors is seamless. Although, the book by William Hauptman does have a few flaws, the score by Roger Williams helps to drive the story and the work of a talented cast makes up for it.
Christopher B. Corrigan is wonderful as Huck Finn. He carries the show with ease. Bill O’Brien plays Mark Twain and he gives Huck his voice as well. He shines in both roles. Michael McElroy is outstanding as the escaped slave, Jim. McElroy had recreated his Tony nominated role for the tour. He does a lovely job on his vocals and is especially strong during the moving “Free At Last.” Most notably, McElroy conveys the strength and dignity that is essential for this character.
Darren Frazier (Duke/Silas Phelps/Pap) and Jay Lusteck (Pap/King/Voice of Silas Phelps) also provide some very entertaining moments. Additionally, Stanley Bahorek as Tom Sawyer is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the character has little stage time.
The set by Ray Klausen is a wonderful depiction of pages from books. These pages are used as other devices such as doorways and balconies. In fact, all the visuals in this show work well with one exception. The wigs leave a lot to be desired.
Big River provides an original look at an old classic. It is a show that feeds both the mind and the heart. Big River should definitely be on every Washington theater-goers To Do list. Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn runs at Ford’s Theatre through May 1st.
Cast List: Michael McElroy, Bill O’Brien, Christopher B. Corrigan, Darren Frazier, Jay Lusteck, Jeannette Bayardelle, Catherine Brunell, Stanley Bahorek, Linda Bove, Michelle A. Banks, Christopher Bloch, Debra Buonaccorsi, Walter Charles, Willy Conley, Christopher Michael Desouza, Desiré Dubose, Elizabeth Greene, Dan Manning, David McLellan, Andres Otalora, David Michael Roth, Ben Thompson, Charles E. Wallace