Huck and Jim Launch Anew in Goodspeed's Big River Oct. 22; Ruggiero Directs

News   Huck and Jim Launch Anew in Goodspeed's Big River Oct. 22; Ruggiero Directs Goodspeed Musicals' new revival of Big River, the Roger Miller musical inspired by Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," featuring Will Reynolds as Huck and Russell Joel Brown as Jim, opens Oct. 22 following previews from Sept. 26 at Goodspeed Opera House.
Big River's John Bolton (center) with Marissa McGowan, Mary Jo McConnell, Robyn Haynes, David Lutken and Adam Shonkwiler (clockwise from top)
Big River's John Bolton (center) with Marissa McGowan, Mary Jo McConnell, Robyn Haynes, David Lutken and Adam Shonkwiler (clockwise from top) Photo by Diane Sobolewski

Reynolds, a graduate of the drama school at Carnegie Mellon University, appeared as Curly in Oklahoma! at Chicago's Light Opera Works, and played in the North American tour of Mamma Mia!

Brown toured the world in Smokey Joe's Café (first national and Japanese tours), and appeared in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Disney's The Lion King and Ain't Misbehavin'.

Big River has book by William Hauptman and music and lyrics by Roger Miller. Performances continue to Nov. 30 in East Haddam, CT.

"Join Huck Finn and runaway slave Jim on a musical trip down the Mississippi River in Mark Twain's classic tale," Goodspeed invites. "Along the way you'll meet a rascally pair of river grifters, a grieving heiress, and of course, Tom Sawyer. A slice of pure Americana — adventurous, humorous, perilous and mythic."

The late Miller's score "draws from an eclectic collection of musical styles including Cajun, gospel, blues and country." The 1985 Broadway production garnered seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. Director Rob Ruggiero's cast also includes John Bolton (Broadway's Curtains) as The Duke; Ed Dixon (Broadway's How the Grinch Stole Christmas) as The King, Kenneth Cavett (Pap), Steve French, Robin Haynes, Nancy Johnston (Miss Watson), Jeremy Jordan (Tom Sawyer), Jill Kerley, Daniel Kwiatkowski, David Lutken, Christine Lyons, Danny Marr, Mary Jo McConnell (Widow Douglas), Marissa McGowan (Mary Jane), A'Lisa D. Miles, Ty Robinson, Adam Shonkwiler, Barbara Brown, Kanova Latrice Johnson and Rob Morrison.

Director Ruggiero won a Jeff Award Oct. 20 for his direction of the Chicago production of Ella, the musical about Ella Fitzgerald that he co-conceived. He returns to Goodspeed where he directed last season's 1776. His Off-Broadway credits include All Under Heaven and the world premiere of Make Me a Song, which he conceived and directed.

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Choreographer John MacInnis is a veteran director-choreographer of the Radio City "Christmas Spectacular" starring the Rockettes.

The creative team includes scenic designer Michael Schweikardt, costume designer Alejo Vietti, lighting designer John Lasiter, music director Michael O'Flaherty, assistant music director William J. Thomas and orchestrator Dan DeLange. Big River is produced for Goodspeed Musicals by Michael P. Price.

Goodspeed Opera House is located at 6 Main Street in East Haddam, CT. Tickets are on sale now through the Goodspeed box office at (860) 873-8668 or at www.goodspeed.org.

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Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre, Goodspeed Musicals produces three musicals each season at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, and additional musicals at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, which was opened in 1984 for the development of new musicals.

Goodspeed is the only regional theatre to receive two Tony Awards (for outstanding achievement). Goodspeed also maintains The Scherer Library of Musical Theatre and The Max Showalter Center for Education in the Musical Theater.

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In 2009, the 125th anniversary of the publishing of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" will be celebrated. Goodspeed Musicals has partnered with The Mark Twain House & Museum to broaden the scope of Twain beyond the page to the stage. To enhance the audience's experience of Big River, Goodspeed has planned several one-night-only free events:

Backstage at Goodspeed

Take part in a lively post-show audience discussion with the cast and a special guest from The Mark Twain House & Museum on Thursdays, Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and Nov. 20.

The Backstage at Goodspeed series featuring Big River cast members will highlight various themes from Big River, Mark Twain's writings, and the Goodspeed Musicals production. On Oct. 23, "Twain in Connecticut: Yesterday & Today" is planned. On Nov. 6, Michael O'Flaherty, Goodspeed Musicals' resident music director, will be on hand to discuss "Music of the River, The Styles That Inspired Big River." On Nov. 20, join Teen Night at the Opera House. After the show, learn first hand from our Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and others about their experiences as youth in theatre and "The Challenges of Portraying an Iconic Character." Backstage at Goodspeed events are free with a ticket to that evening's performance.

Ed Dixon, Russel Joel Brown, Will Reynolds and John Bolton in <i>Big River</i>
Ed Dixon, Russel Joel Brown, Will Reynolds and John Bolton in Big River Photo by Diane Sobolewski