‘Big River’ confronts big ideas on small stage

September 18, 2012

Huck, played by Randy Scholz (left), and Jim, played by Rodney Hicks, float down the Mississippi River on a raft in a scene from the Village Theatre musical ‘Big River.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

In Mark Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn resisted attempts to “sivilize” him, but nonetheless, the character cleans up nicely for the stage.

Huck’s adventure on the Mississippi River is re-engineered in “Big River” — a stage adaptation at Village Theatre. The musical opens the 2012-13 season at the downtown Issaquah playhouse.

Overall, despite occasional shortcomings, “Big River” is a spirited romp propelled downriver by a dynamic cast and a score rooted in radio-ready country and pop.

The towheaded Randy Scholz, 26, seems at least a decade younger onstage, and creates a credible Huck, a prankster coming of age at the same time as a burgeoning nation.

Jim is a titan of literature and the moral core of “Big River” — and Rodney Hicks is majestic in the role. Jim, determined to escape from slavery in Missouri, is embodied with dignity and grace by Hicks.

Both actors deserve ample credit for adding flesh to the characters, to compensate for the elements lost in translation from “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to “Big River.”

The supporting cast adds color and texture to the characters Twain sprinkled along the Mississippi.

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Huckleberry Finn comes to life on stage in Village Theatre’s ‘Big River’

September 4, 2012

Randy Scholz (left, as Huck) and Rodney Hicks (Jim) star in ‘Big River.’ By Mike Hippie/Village Theatre

The re-imagining of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” — “Big River” — sets the seminal novel to music and transports the landmark trip down the Mississippi River to the Village Theatre stage.

“Big River” debuted on Broadway in 1985, ran for more than 1,000 performances and earned Tony Awards aplenty. The show opens the 2012-13 Village Theatre season Sept. 12.

“We’re always looking for something to kick off the season that is exciting, to get people out of the beautiful September Seattle weather and get them into the theater,” Resident Music Director Tim Symons said. “‘Big River’ is a piece that’s so beautiful and all the music is in it is so gorgeous.”

The cast pairs a veteran, Rodney Hicks, and a newcomer, Randy Scholz, in the lead roles.

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‘Big River’ ticket sales start at Village Theatre

August 14, 2012

“Big River” — “Huckleberry Finn” retold in musical form — sails to Village Theatre and opens the 2012-13 season soon.

The production re-imagines the classic tale as a musical told from the protagonist’s perspective.

The musical is scheduled to run at the downtown Francis J. Gaudette Theatre from Sept. 12 to Oct. 21. Tickets cost $22 to $63. Call 392-2202 or go to www.villagetheatre.org

Village Theatre offers half-priced student and military rush tickets 30 minutes before shows. Village Theater also offers group discounts for parties of 10 or more.

Roger Miller — a songwriter known for “King of the Road” — penned bluegrass, blues and country songs to accompany the journey. The musical earned Miller a Tony Award for Best Score, plus other Tonys, for the original Broadway run.

Village Theatre blazes ‘Trails’ for next season

March 13, 2012

The musical “Trails” — a tale about childhood friends embarking on a journey along the Appalachian Trail — is poised for a premiere in the trailhead city, Issaquah.

“Trails” is the original offering in a lineup of classics Village Theatre plans to present during the 2012-13 season. The downtown Issaquah theater announced the lineup March 7.

The musicals “Big River” — “Huckleberry Finn” retold in musical form — and “Chicago” bracket the season. “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Mousetrap” complete the upcoming season.

“For years, we have listened to the feedback of our audience and our artists when selecting shows — this coming year is no exception and we think our patrons will be very pleased with this diverse lineup,” Executive Producer Robb Hunt said.

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