Saturday, August 14, 2010

Big River

I have always thought that To Kill a Mockingbird was THE great American novel. Last night, I began to doubt that thought. Last night, I saw the musical Big River, based on Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. This was one amazing show. I know I pretty much say that about any musical I see. I can't help it. Musicals touch me. I've said it before... some artists work in oils or clay. I work in Broadway.

Anyway, this show was spectacular. This show marked Adam Cates' directorial debut. Adam is a choreographer, and the dancing was sensational... folksy, energetic, and fun. But there are songs in this show that have such beautiful harmonies, and Adam let them be. He let the actors just sing them, all their energy going into the heart of the vocals. My heart grew three sizes every time that happened. The acting was wonderful too. I saw sides of this summer's interns that I'd never even glimpsed in Annie.

It was a fantastic night of entertainment. I laughed, I cried, and I thought about the story Mark Twain told in his work. Huck's story is really the story of America and its continuing journey of growing up, convincing itself its way was the right way, having to reexamine values, being made to feel uncomfortable, and then finally forcing itself to stand up for what is right.

I've read many books on slavery. I've seen movies and TV shows. But, in this day and age, it's rare to see a live human being put in that position. Jim was played by Evan Tyrone Martin who has done several shows here in Fairfield. He's a Facebook friend of mine, and I don't know him well, but I know him. And seeing him as a slave, being mistreated, well... it hurt. I was ashamed and sorry, and it hurt. I sat in row C, and I saw the sweat rolling off his neck while his hands were chained together. It was hard to watch. This is a gift of live theatre. It put me in an uncomfortable place and made me explore my feelings and beliefs.

In this digital age, we must continue to put ourselves in situations that make us feel and make us walk in the shoes of another. We live in a world of instant entertainment... high speed internet, Netflix, DVR. They're wonderful. But, we must not completely anesthetize ourselves behind that monitor or screen. We must go to the theatre.

Go see Big River at the Sondheim Center!

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