Friday, June 22, through Sunday, July 1
Augustana College's Brunner Theatre Center, 3750 Seventh Avenue, Rock Island IL
Opening the company's second season with a Broadway hit that won seven Tony Awards and nine Drama Desk Awards, the Mississippi Bend Players bring life on the Mississippi to stage-musical life in the June 22 through July 1 presentation Big River, a Mark Twain adaptation praised by the Hollywood Reporter for its “tuneful score” and “episodic storyline that flows as smoothly as the Mississippi River.”
Based on Twain's iconic novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Big River sweeps the audience down the mighty Miss as the irrepressible Huck escapes life with his abusive father and helps his slave friend Jim find true freedom. Along the way, many of Huck's most familiar escapades – cavorting alongside pal Tom Sawyer, faking his own death, traveling with a pair of untrustworthy con men, falling in love with Mary Jane Wilkes – are accompanied by Tony-winning bluegrass, country, Americana, and gospel tunes by legendary composer Roger Miller. And while Huck's and Jim's adventures are hilarious, suspenseful, and heartwarming, Big River – its 1985 Tony wins including those for Best Musical, Direction, and Featured Actor – is also a remarkably candid depiction of race relations in the pre-Civil War south, lauded by the Hollywood Reporter for being a Broadway musical that “doesn’t shy away from the more controversial aspects of its literary inspiration.”
Directing Big River for the Mississippi Bend Players is Augustana College's Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Shelley Cooper, who recently helmed The Drowsy Chaperone for the college, and directed, wrote, and starred in the wintertime one-woman show La Divina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas. Saul M. Nache, a voice instructor at Augustana, serves as music director, and recently played the title role in Opera Quad Cities' community collaboration The Marriage of Figaro. Columbia College's Quinn Rigg plays Huck to the New York-based LaRon James' Huck, and 17 performers fill out Big River 's ensemble: Marquise Atkinson, Becca Brazel, John D'Aversa, Marjorie Gast, Catherine Groth, Keegan Harry, Kelly Hill, Noel Huntley, Kayla Lansing, Keenan Odenkirk, Tristan Odenkirk, Joseph Oliger, Lexi Pelzer, Kira Rangel, George “Big G” Schulz, Reader employee Mike Schulz, and Jaryd Whitmore.
Big River will be performed at Augustana's Brunner Theatre Center on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., tickets are $15-20, and more information and reservations are available by calling (309)794-7306 or visiting MississippiBendPlayers.com.