Big River

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Is “Big River” a most unusual musical? It certainly is, and in more ways than one. For starters, it’s a production by the Deaf West Theatre, done in American Sign Language, with voiceovers for those of us who need to hear the words. It all fits together into a smooth, watchable show. “Big River” also has marvelous songs by the late Roger Miller. Some are in the humorous country style that made him famous. But mostly, these are good solid songs reflecting homey American styles like gospel, and Nashville. The show also reflects the spirit of the great book on which it was based. Which is to say that we see Huck’s carefree raft trip down the Mississippi – but also a scene in which a black mother and daughter are torn from eachother’s arms, because they’re slaves, and they’ve just been sold. In other words, “Big River” succeeds as pure entertainment, celebrating a classic by a great American author, with vintage American musical styles. But unlike some musicals, it doesn’t dodge the aspects of our history that now give us pause – and the way it’s creatively staged, using deaf actors, is an added plus. “Big River” continues at the Sacramento Community Center Theatre through February 6. And take the kids. It’ll do them good. Jeff Hudson, KXJZ news.