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PlaybillBIG RIVER

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

A Musical in 2 Acts, 18 Scenes.

Book by William Hauptman. Adapted from the novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. Music and lyrics by Roger Miller.

Originally produced by The American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts, subsequently produced by The LaJolla Playhouse, LaJolla, California

Eugene O'Neill Theatre 25th April, 1985: closed 20th September, 1987 (1005 perfs)



Production staged by Des McAnuff. Scenery by Heidi Landesman. Costumes by Patricia McGourty. Lighting by Richard Riddell. Sound by Otts Munderloh. Musical supervision by Daniel Troob. Orchestrations by Steven Margoshes and Danny Troob. Dance and incidental music by John Richard Lewis. Musical direction and vocal arrangements by Linda Twine. Choreography by Janet Watson. Stage movement and fights by B. H. Barry.

 

 

 

Story

 "Do You Wanna Go to Heaven?" introduces us to Huck's situation: "Sometimes," Huck says "it seemed like the whole blame town of St. Petersburg was telling me who I should be." And, in fact, the whole town does lecture him, warning ("You may think that the whole thing is silly, but it isn't silly really...") that if he doesn't conform, he'll go to hell. Late that night Huck escapes from his bedroom to join Tom Sawyer and his friends in the cove, where they dream, in "The Boys song," of all the horrible and wonderful crimes they'll commit on the way to "the bad place." 

Reality intrudes later that night when Huck's father shows up in Huck's bedroom and drags his son off to a cabin in the woods. The action - and the music - takes a sharp turn as Pap careers between buffoonery and dangerous, threatening malice. With his talking blues song, "Guv'ment," Pap releases a life-time of frustration, ranting incoherently and hilariously against a government that would take a man's son away from him. 

Pap, in a drunken delirium, tries to murder Huck, then passes out. Huck sees his chance to escape. He kills a pig, spilling the blood around the cabin to make it look as though he has been murdered. Just as we see that Huck is no longer playing kids' games, who appears, just outside the action, but the eternal kid, Tom Sawyer. As Tom sings "Hand for the Hog," we see how far apart the two boys are moving. Huck delivers the next number, a whimsical character piece called, "I Huckleberry, Me," when he's alone on Jackson's Island, living out what Tom might only fantasise. 

But Huck soon finds he's not alone on Jackson's Island after all. Miss Watson's slave Jim, who has run away to keep from being sold down river to New Orleans, is there, too, and Huck makes the impulsive decision to team up with Jim and help him get to the free states. With just minutes to spare - a posse is after Jim - they launch a raft they have found onto the river and head for freedom. "Muddy Waters

The fugitives, travelling only of night, don't get very far before they are reminded of the seriousness of their action. A boat carrying captured runaway slaves passes them in the darkness and as they sit very still, Huck and Jim hear the plaintive, gospel strains of "The Crossing," a hymn sung by people moving not towards but away from freedom. The song has the quality of something remembered, of being recalled, in bits and pieces, from the distant past. 

They float down the river on the raft, narrowly escaping capture and a collision with a steamboat, and drift in a fog past the mouth of the Ohio, which was their route to freedom, Huck and Jim spend what will turn out to be their lost moments alone together singing of the beauty of life on the river. "River In the Rain" 

An diversion arrives in the form of the King and the Duke, a couple of con artists who commandeer the craft while escaping from an angry mob. Immediately they begin practising their shenanigans on each other. "There's sheep to be shorn all up and down this river," says the King, dreaming of new ways to fleece ignorant townspeople. He and the Duke sing "When the Sun Goes Down in the South" drawing Huck into their circle, leaving Jim with the memory of "Muddy Water". 

The second act opens with the King, Duke and Huck going ashore of Bricktown, Arkansas to exact their first fraud. The Duke, moving among the townspeople to announce the evening's great theatrical spectacle, appeals to their prurient interest with a song about the acclaimed, if rather salacious, Royal Nonesuch. "What's a Nonesuch?" asks one of the townsfolk. "Well," says the Duke, launching into his rhyme-a-second patter song, "She's got one big breast in the middle of her chest, and an eye in the middle of her nose." By the end of the evening, the locals have been taken for several hundred dollars and Huck is beginning to discover a new way of life. When he finally gets back to the raft, he is still in a mischievous mood and plays a trick on Jim, pretending to be a slave hunter. Jim, not amused, rebukes Huck for the first time. Huck, after reflecting on the matter, admits that Jim is a human being who is owed on apology. Jim, accepts the apology but recognises the wide space that exists even between good friends of different races. They sing "Worlds Apart." 

Huck, of course, is never allowed to slip too for back into his natural humanity, as the King and Duke re-appear to draft him into their next scheme. Jim is left once again on the raft while the three others go oft in search of profitable adventures. They immediately encounter a Young Fool on a dock singing the praises of Arkansas. The Fool inadvertently fells them everything they ever want to know about a fortune to be inherited because of a death in the Wilkes family. The King and Duke waste no time presenting themselves at the Wilkes' house as the rightful heirs. In the middle of one of the funeral hymns, "How Blest We Are," they set about perpetrating their nefarious activities. 

When Huck sees the beautiful, and innocent, Mary June Wilkes is being robbed of everything by these rapscallions, he steals back her money from the King and Duke. When Mary June herself appears, he hurriedly stuffs the bag of gold in her father's coffin and hides behind it. She sings an ironic love song to the corpse, "You Oughta Be Here With Me." 

Mary Jane, upon discovering what Huck has done for her, asks him to stay awhile and become her friend. He is deeply moved, but also realises his responsibility to Jim. With Huck standing at centre stage, halfway between Mary Jane and Jim, the three sing "Leavings Not the Only Way to Go". 

Returning to the raft, Huck finds, not Jim, but a tarred and feathered Duke, who admits he has sold Jim back into slavery for 40 dollars, After the Duke stumbles away, Huck begins to feel guilty about what he has done. He writes a letter to Miss Watson, telling her where she can find her runaway slave, and for a moment feels better. But it isn't long before he feels worse than ever. He tears up the letter, declaring, "All right then, I'll go to hell." He is going to free Jim from captivity, the consequences be damned, and expresses his resolution "Waitin' For the Light To Shine". 

At this point the plot takes more fast turns than there are in the Mississippi, and in one of the most surprising of them, Tom Sawyer shows up and decides to help Huck steal Jim from his captors. Jim is imprisoned in a tiny cell. His heartbreaking anthem, "Free At Last". Before Huck and Jim go there separate ways at the end of the play - Jim up North to buy his family out of slavery, Huck out West to get away from any attempts to "civilise" him - they sit for a few moments by the bank of the river, recalling their adventures together, even remembering a little bit of "River In the Rain". Then Jim leaves and Huck is alone once more, thinking of their journey. "It was like the fortune Jim predicted long ago," he says, "Considerable trouble and considerable joy."

Orchestration

Piano/synthesiser; Trombone, Baritone Horn; Harmonica; Bass; Guitar, Banjo; Trumpet, Flugel Horn; Drums; Fiddle; Guitar, Banjo, 12-string guitar, Mandolin; Woodwinds, Cello, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet I & II, Percusssion

Musical Numbers:

  1. Do You Want to Go to Heaven - The Company
  2. The Boys - Tom Sawyer, the Gang
  3. Waiting for the Light to Shine - Huckleberry Finn
  4. Guv'ment - Pap Finn
  5. Hand for the Hog - Tom Sawyer
  6. I Huckleberry Me - Huckleberry Finn
  7. Muddy Water - Jim, Huckleberry Finn
  8. Crossing Over - Slaves, Overseer
  9. River in the Rain - Huckleberry Finn, Jim
  10. When the Sun Goes Down in the South - The Duke, The King, Huckleberry Finn
  11. The Royal Nonesuch - The Duke, Company
  12. Worlds Apart- Jim, Huckleberry Finn
  13. Arkansas - A Young Fool
  14. How Blest We Are - Alice's Daughter, Company
  15. You Ought To Be Here With Me - Mary Jane Wilkes, Susan Wilkes, Joanne Wilkes
  16. How Blest We Are (reprise) - Alice
  17. Leaving's Not the Only Way to Go - Mary Jane Wilkes, Jim, Huckleberry Finn
  18. Waiting for the Light to Shine (reprise) - Huckleberry Finn
  19. Free at Last - Jim
  20. River in the Rain (reprise) - Huckleberry Finn, Jim
  21. Muddy Water (reprise) - The Company

Scenes and Settings

The action takes place along the Missippi River Valley, sometime in the 1840s.

Act 1

Act 2

Original New York Cast

(in order of appearance):

In St. Petersburg, and later on the Illinois shore and Jackson's Island:

On the River, south of St. Louis:


On the River, near Cairo, Illinois:

On the Riverbank in Kentucky:

In Bricktown, Arkansas:


In Hillsboro, Arkansas:

On a Farm near Hilsboro:

 

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Discography

Original Broadway Cast