MEREDITH — Huck Finn, Jim, Tom Sawyer, the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are just a handful of Mark Twain's beloved characters who will be taking audiences on a musical journey when the Winni Players present Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium in Meredith from February 15-17.
Big River was a huge hit on Broadway when it opened in 1984, winning seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and running for over two years. The show closely follows Twain's story about Huck Finn, who is taken from the comfortable home of his two carers, the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, by his no-good father.
Seeking an opportunity to escape, he teams up with Jim, Miss Watson's runaway slave, for an adventure on the Mississippi River. As Jim attempts to gain his freedom by finding his way North, Huck grapples with his conflicting feelings of respect for Jim which goes against the mores of the society in which he was brought up.
The serious subject matter is livened up by Roger Miller's catchy country music, along with comic relief from some of Twain's most colorful characters including the fraudsters knows as the King and the Duke. A country music star, Miller is best known for "King of the Road", "Dang Me" and "England Swings".
The Winni Players is the community theatre wing of The Winnipesaukee Playhouse and over 40 members
of the local community have been rehearsing this production since November.
Director Neil Pankhurst has teamed up with Musical Director Christine Chiasson and Choreographer Tara Little to bring the story to life. Gilford resident Ben Kace takes on the role of Huck while Bruce Smith (last seen on the Winni Playhouse stage as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird) plays Jim. Kace has been performing with the Winni Playhouse Youth and Community groups since middle school and has performed with the company many times since his Playhouse debut in 2005.
The remaining company is made up of kids as young as seven and adults well into retirement age. Many parents have been working on the show with their own children which has added much to the fun of the rehearsal process.
Marketing Director Lesley Pankhurst says, "traditionally our February community theatre show has been
a piece of classic American literature and we're pleased to continue this with Big River. This time around
we're excited to present a large-scale musical which is also family-friendly. My family saw the original
Broadway production of Big River when I was around eight and it quickly became a staple of the musical
reviews my siblings and I subjected our relatives to during family get-togethers. It's fun to be sharing the
stage with my own daughter and passing on my enjoyment of this show."
The play is recommended for ages 8 and above. Middle and high schoolers who have read the novel will get an extra kick out of how playwright William Hauptman has incorporated Twain's own dialogue into the script. Adults of all ages, whether they've read the novel or not, will enjoy the timeless tale of how a young boy puts aside his own prejudices to help someone in need.
Big River will be performed at the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium while the Playhouse prepares to open their new theatre in Meredith in the Spring. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and
Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets cost $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and $12 students. Tickets can be ordered by calling 366-7377 or online using a credit card at www.winniplayhouse.org. They will be available at the door, payable by cash or check.
The Winni Players will present Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium in Meredith from February 15-17. (Courtesy photo)