"An Insider's Thoughts: A Guest Review from"
Sam Greene, a review of our December production: Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

If you like big, sprawling, satirical and very grown-up musicals with a distinctive American flair, then run don’t walk to the Height Players’ production of Big River. This is a musical adaptation Mark Twain’s classic story of Huckleberry Finn – but unlike most modern interpretations, this is not a “kiddie show.” 

People today tend to forget that Mr. Twain’s novel was not written as a boy’s adventure story so much as a scathing and wickedly funny takedown of rural American life in the Nineteenth Century. The landscape is comically populated by assorted rogues, scallywags, skinflints, pious hypocrites and above all, bigots. And it is with supreme and deliberate irony that Mr. Twain’s two heroes are a pre-adolescent boy and a runaway slave.

As the two principals, Huck as played by Jeffrey Williams and Jim as played by Rod Singleton, are simply astounding. Mr. Williams, who is a twenty-something man, is utterly convincing in his portrayal of a barely-educated county boy wise beyond his years. And Mr. Singleton will simultaneously break your heart and lift your spirits high as the humble but intensely humane and heroic, Jim. Oh, and by the way – his magnificent singing shakes the rafters!

Speaking of delightful music, the show has lots of it. The score was written by accomplished songwriter, Roger Miller ("King of the Road") and the lyrics capture the biting wit of Mr. Twain’s prose. The musical styles range from bluegrass and country to gospel and Dixie. There are sentimental ballads and show-stopping ensembles that will take your breath away. It is no wonder that the show swept the Tony Awards in 1985 for all the musical categories.

This musical was conceived as labor of love by director, Steven Velardi – and it shows.  He is greatly aided by musical director, David Carl and choreographer, Michael Kidney (who also portrays the delightfully slimy Duke). The huge cast and accompanying musicians are universally excellent.  And the deliberately stark “theater in the round” set by Soh-Young Lee and Gerald Newman is highly effective.   

So, if you’re planning to sit around this weekend – don’t.  Get up and go down “ Big River .”  It’s one of the biggest and most meaningful American musicals you’re likely to see – and it’s right in your neighborhood.

P.S. Please be advised that the play utilizes substantial doses of Mark Twain’s original text and dialog -- which includes the frequent utterance of the repulsive and derogatory “n-word.”