'Big River' a raft-load of fun, spirituality at Lee University

By Clint Cooper Article posted on Thu. Nov. 1st, 2012
  • photo
    Big River at Lee University
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


• What: "Big River."

• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, and Saturday, Nov. 3; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-10.

• Where: Edna Minor Conn Theatre, Dixon Center, Vest Building (Room 305), Lee University, 1125 Church St. N.E., Cleveland, Tenn.

• Admission: $15 adults, $10 seniors/students.

• Phone: 614-8343.

• Website: www.leeuniversity.edu/theatre.edu.


The original Broadway production of "Big River" ran from April 25, 1985, to Sept. 20, 1987. It garnered seven Tony Awards and was nominated for three more. Its 2003 revival won one Tony and was nominated for two others.

If your favorite Broadway musical doesn't include a song about the dreaded nonesuch, if it doesn't include a salute to a hog and if it's not the musical version of a Mark Twain book you had to read in high school, then it's not "Big River."

The musical, based on the classic 1884 novel "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," will be offered at Lee University's Dixon Center for four shows beginning Friday, Nov. 2.

"It's a crowd-pleasing musical," said Dan Buck, the production's director and assistant professor of theater at Lee. "It has great, great songs and really fun dance numbers. This is one [where] people will run out and tell their friends."

The novel and the musical are a continuation of Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

In the musical, when Huck's estranged father returns to capitalize on his son's good fortune, Huck flees and meets Jim, a runaway slave. The two outcasts travel the river, sharing adventures that lead to Huck's changing view of slavery and God's will.

Buck said he's not a particular fan of musicals. "I feel like they're sort of shallow -- not usually deep. This one, though, is spiritual, ethical and has themes of race."

The musical contains a variety of songs, from upbeat numbers such as "Do You Wanna Get to Heaven?" and "Hand for the Hog" to plaintive ballads such as "World Apart" and "How Blest We Are" to triumphant numbers such as "Waiting for the Light To Shine" and "Free at Last."

The variety "shows off a great many of our students," Buck said. "There are special moments for at least 10 of our [28-member cast], whether it's a song or a dance number."

Plus, there's a live pig.

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

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