College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Mason presents “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

October 25, 2018   /   by Mary Lee Clark

Photos by Lathan Goumas.

George Mason University’s School of Theater and School of Music will present “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which will run at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, Oct. 25-28.

Based on the Mark Twain classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the musical originally appeared on stage in 1985. The audience will follow Huck Finn as he helps his friend Jim escape to freedom while sharing hilarious and suspenseful adventures together. ​

The play offers what Joe Walsh, music director and professor, calls “an abundance of riches” in music. The musical was originally composed by Roger Miller, an American singer and songwriter known for his country music. The southern sounds of a mandolin, guitar and harmonica add life to the musical’s many lively songs, African American spirituals and touching duets. 

"With all of these different styles of music in the same piece, it creates a show that keeps everyone enjoying every corner of the story because there is so much variety there," said Walsh.  

Thomas W. Jones, professional artist-in-residence at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said their production of “Big River” has been updated for a 21st-century audience, with nontraditional casting to make the stage more inclusive and representative of the broader American tapestry.  

"Some of our interpretations are different but certainly keeping with Twain's story,” said Jones. “It's a classic, so we're not trying to in any way distort it or reinterpret it but expand its interpretation so that it [speaks] to a contemporary audience." ​

Jones, who remembers first reading the classic in middle school, thinks the changes are more along the lines of what Twain envisioned. 

"I was open to the idea of seeing how we could expand the story so that the storytellers, the actors of the ensemble, look more like what's representative of America and more represented the America that Twain possibly imagined,” said Jones. “There was definitely that conceit going in."

Stefan Sittig, instructor at the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the choreographer for “Big River,” said the musical’s choreography is arranged to feel as though the piece is taking place on the Mississippi River in the early 1800s, but the dance is also blended with modern musical theater movement styles. 

Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. Tickets and showtimes can be found on the Center for the Arts website.