Big River is a 1985 musical based on Mark Twain’s beloved 1884 novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is the first time SBMT has staged the show, and the cast and staff have turned it into a passion project that is shaping up to be another in a long list of outstanding productions. The show took Broadway by storm in 1985, winning Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score. In a period dominated by British imports, this was a uniquely American story, and it ran for more than 1,000 performances, featuring catchy bluegrass and country music by “King of the Road” composer Roger Miller.
Three decades later, the story holds up well, and its commentary on racism and religion, greed and gullibility, and mob mentality vs. independent thinking are newly relevant amid today’s divisive political posturing.
SBMT’s extremely talented cast takes us back to old “Muddy Waters” as Huckleberry Finn and the runaway slave Jim escape down the mighty Mississippi River in search of freedom. Huck is a wild child in 1840s Missouri. Though he is technically in the care of the strict Widow Douglas, he roams freely in his small town of St. Petersburg, mostly doing what he pleases, but getting mixed messages from the bible-thumping town elders trying to “save” him and his rowdy peers pushing him in the opposite direction. More trouble arises when his violent, alcoholic father suddenly demands custody of Huck in order to get at his trust fund.
Fearing for his life, Huck takes off on a raft down the Mississippi River. Along the way, he meets up with a runaway slave, Jim, who is trying to find his wife and children up North. As they head down the river, they get sucked into scams involving two “aristocrats,” one of which lands Jim in chains once again, and Huck joins up with old friend Tom Sawyer to free him in the most unnecessarily elaborate scheme ever devised.
Our richly diverse cast features both SBMT regulars and newcomers. Huck Finn is played by Ben Hatch, who was last seen in the choir of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Jim is played by Anthone Jackson, who is new to the Saratoga stage but has appeared in a variety of shows with other theatre companies.
Cast members are pictured here in alphabetical order, and we will be sharing their background and credentials in the coming weeks on our Facebook page. They include:
First row: Becky Brownson, Dallas Carter, Michael Cuddy, Bonnie Cullen, Derek DeMarco
Second row: Andy Gipson, Ben Hatch, Barbara Heninger, Jason Herrera, Michael Paul Hirsch
Third row: Robin Holbrook, Doug Hughes, Anthone Jackson, Brenda Jackson, Cami Jackson
Fourth row: Michael Johnson, Sidney Kenny, Brennah Kemmerly, Walter M. Mayes, Janet Miller
Fifth row: Libby Moore Schroeder, Julie Moylan, Raiña Parks, Sheraj Ragoobeer, Michael Rhone
Sixth row: Steve Roma, Allen Siverson, Michael Stahl, Clara Takahashi, Jeff Tuttle
Photos against a dark background are courtesy of Steve Stubbs.