The touring Deaf West Theatre production of the American Sign Language adaptation of Big River kicks off with a five-week stint in California, before visiting previously reported venues including Houston's Theatre Under The Stars, Dallas Summer Musicals, Atlanta's Theater of the Stars, Boston's Wang Center and the Aoyama Theatre in Tokyo, Japan. The latter is a collaboration with Hori Pro and Gorgeous Entertainment — the company also teaming with the Roundabout Theatre Company to bring Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Pacific Overtures to Broadway next fall.
The staging, which uses deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing actors, will be continuing the tour through June 2005, also including engagements in Green Bay, Philadelphia, Tucson, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Columbus, Wilmington, New Haven, Hershey and an extended run in Washington, D.C.
Jeff Calhoun (Bells Are Ringing, Grease) once again directs and choreographs the musical — with music and lyrics by Roger Miller and book by William Hauptman — based on the novel by Mark Twain.
Tyrone Giordano made his Broadway debut in the role of Huck, which he originated at the Deaf West Theatre and reprised for the Mark Taper Forum run. Voicing the role of Huck and playing Mark Twain was Daniel Jenkins — a Tony nominee for his turn as Huck in the original 1985 production of the Roger Miller-William Hauptman musical. Michael McElroy played the role of Jim.
The Broadway run opened at the American Airlines Theatre July 24 to positive reviews. The co-production between Roundabout Theatre Company and Deaf West in association with The Mark Taper Forum ended Sept. 21. In the production, songs and dialogue are both sung and signed with actors doubling as characters — one speaking and singing and one signing.
This Big River was originally produced at the Deaf West Theatre in North Hollywood, California in 2001. It then transferred to the larger Mark Taper Forum in 2002. The staging won six Los Angeles Ovation Awards and five Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Awards including Best Musical for both.