The Deaf West Theatre production of Big River which won six awards at Los Angeles' recent Ovation Awards, will extend an extra week at the Mark Taper Forum, through Jan. 5, 2003.
Big River, which opened in this revival run of the original Deaf West production Nov. 14, was to have closed Dec. 29.
Deaf West Theatre has a unique approach to musicals and plays, incorporating both hearing and hearing-impaired actors in the cast. Songs and dialogue are often sung and signed with actors doubling as characters — one speaking and singing and one signing. For example, in Big River, Huckleberry Finn's Pap is played by hearing impaired actor Troy Kotsur and sung by Lyle Kanouse, who also plays the con man King.
Featured in the cast are Rufus Bonds, Jr., Gwen Stewart and Tony Award winner Phyllis Frelich. A veteran of Rent and Parade, Bonds comes to Big River after starring as Mufasa in L.A.'s company of The Lion King. Bonds plays the slave, Jim. Stewart, who is Alice, was featured in the original Broadway company of Rent. A co-founder of the National Theatre of the Deaf, Frelich won her Tony for Children of a Lesser God, which was written for her by Mark Medoff.
Also in the cast are Chuck Baird, Michelle A. Banks, Gibby Brand, Michael Davis, Tyrone Giordano, Rod Keller, Carol Kline, Jarrett LeMaster, William Martinez, Ryan Schlecht, Melissa van der Schyff, Alexandria Wailes and Scott Waara as Mark Twain and the voice of Huckleberry Finn. Jeff Calhoun, who won two Ovations for his work on Big River, directs and choreographs. His past work includes the Tony-nominated dance in 1994's Grease! The Will Rogers Follies and Bells Are Ringing. Calhoun told Playbill On-Line (June 5) that he was definitely interested in bringing the Deaf West revival to Broadway with Jujamcyn's Rocco Landesman as a possible producing partner. There is still no official confirmation of a transfer, but the Mark Taper Forum did recently bring Flower Drum Song to New York after an extended run in the fall and winter of 2001 02.
Big River, which debuted at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre in 1985, is a musical re-telling of Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," concentrated mostly on Finn's travels with the runaway slave Jim as they float down the Mississippi on a raft. Songs in the Roger Miller score include "Waiting for the Light to Shine," "Guv'ment," "Muddy Water," "River in the Rain," "The Royal Nonesuch," "Worlds Apart," "Leaving's Not the Only Way to Go," "You Ought to Be Here With Me" and "Free At Last."
For ticket information, call (213) 628-2772. The Mark Taper Forum is located at 135 N. Grand Ave. and on the web at http://www.taperahmanson.com.