Deaf West Theatre's Big River to Reach Broadway with Roundabout in July

By Ernio Hernandez
and Christine Ehren
20 Mar 2003

Deaf West Theatre's Ovation Award-winning revival of Big River, a unique production using both hearing and non-hearing actors, will resurface on Broadway with the help of the Roundabout Theatre Company. The restaging will be in association with the Mark Taper Forum, a spokesperson confirmed.



A casting notice reveals that the production will begin previews July 1. Jeff Calhoun (Bells Are Ringing, Grease) directs and choreographs the musical — with music and lyrics by Roger Miller and book by William Hauptman — based on the novel by Mark Twain. Steven Landau returns as musical director.

Deaf West Theatre incorporates both hearing and hearing-impaired actors in the casts of their musicals and plays. Songs and dialogue are often sung and signed with actors doubling as characters — one speaking and singing and one signing.

Big River closed its second Los Angeles run at the Mark Taper Forum, Jan. 5. Featured in the Los Angeles were several Broadway caliber performers including Rufus Bonds , Jr.(Rent, Parade), Gwen Stewart (Rent) and Tony Award winner Phyllis Frelich (Children of a Lesser God).

Also in the cast were 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 Tony winner Scott Waara (The Most Happy Fella) as Mark Twain and the voice of Huckleberry Finn.

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 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 more information on Deaf West Theatre, visit www.deafwest.org.