The Messrs. Ludwig, Schlitz, Marques, and Ellis have achieved the impossible with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the new musical which opened at the Minskoff Theatre last night. They have beaten Disney at Disney’s own game. Tom Sawyer, based on the classic novel by Mark Twain, has been brought to the Broadway stage in a joyous, wholesome, literate, and wonderfully realized production guaranteed to dazzle and enchant children and adults alike.
Ken Ludwig has provided a theatrically lucid and intelligent adaptation of Twain’s masterpiece, a book many consider the Great American Novel, without sacrificing credibility to dramatic structure or moral honesty to histrionic preachiness. Don Schlitz has provided music and lyrics so firmly grounded in the American rural experience as to seem songs you learned in childhood, and are here hearing again after being forgotten for too many years. David Marques provides fetching choreography and movement, based on children’s games, simple and instantly understandable. Scott Ellis has taken these elements, added performers capable of personifying the fundamental truths behind the characters and a bit of ingenious staging, and produced the ideal family musical.
Tom Sawyer, of course, belongs to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and the two young actors playing them. Joshua Park as Sawyer and Jim Poulos as Finn are more than capable of setting an appropriately enthusiastic tone and carrying this musical without overshadowing the production itself. With the help of the endearing Kristen Bell as Becky Thatcher, the adorably irascible Jane Connell as the Widow Douglas, and Linda Purl’s touchingly realized Aunt Polly, the story is in very good hands. Also of particular note in an excellent supporting cast is John Dossett as Judge Thatcher and Kevin Durand as Injun Joe.
Heidi Ettinger’s elegant scenery, lavishly based on classic American quilt designs, establishes a strong theme right from the beginning. Kenneth Posner’s gorgeous lighting and Anthony Powell’s splendidly colorful costumes pick up this Americana theme and completes it, presenting the most visually beautiful production of this season. Paul Gemignani’s musical direction and Michael Starobin’s orchestrations are nothing short of perfection.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Based on the novel by Mark Twain. Book by Ken Ludwig. Music and lyrics by Don Schlitz. Directed by Scott Ellis. Choreography by David Marques. Musical direction by Paul Gemignani. Scenic design by Heidi Ettinger. Costume design by Anthony Powell. Lighting design by Kenneth Posner. Sound Design by Lew Mead. Fight direction by Rick Sordelet. Orchestrations by Michael Starobin. Starring Joshua Park, Jim Poulos, Kristen Bell, Linda Purl, John Dossett, Jane Connell, Tom Aldredge, Kevin Serge Durand, John Christopher Jones, Tommy Hollis, Richard Poe, Marshall Pailet.
Theatre: Minskoff Theatre, 200 West 45th Street
Audience: Suitable for children.
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: $35 to $85
Tickets online: Ticketmaster
Tickets by phone: Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 / 1 800 755-4000
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM