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Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Written by Chris Gibson
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The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre

Through 7/4/2007
Reviewed by Chris Gibson
Mark Twain's classic tale, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, has been adapted for the stage as a musical with a book by Ken Ludwig, best known for the oft-performed Lend Me a Tenor, and music and lyrics by Don Schlitz. Ludwig's libretto remains fairly faithful to Twain, if a bit sanitized.

Schlitz's music is lively and orchestrated nicely with mostly folk instrumentation, but the melodies are weak and far too similar. The historic Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock is presenting a fine rendition of this show as their second offering of the season.

Young Tom Sawyer and his companion, Huck Finn witness a murder one night in the cemetery by an infamous half-breed named Injun Joe. Joe escapes prosecution but returns to seek a hidden treasure and revenge against Tom for testifying against him. Their paths cross in unsettling fashion when Tom and his love interest, Becky Thatcher, get lost in a cave during a church picnic outing.

John Kinney is terrific as Tom and he gives the character a winning and mischievous personality that fits perfectly. He has a very pleasant voice and the material fits well with his range. He's especially strong on "Here's My Plan" , a number which outlines his thoughts for the future, and "It's in the Bible" , a gospel influenced song that has Tom displaying a surprising amount of knowledge of the good book. Angie Perez is cute as Becky and she and Kinney share a good chemistry. Though she's given little to sing she does a fine job with the sweet romantic duet "To Hear You Say My Name" . Gregory Schmerber needs to add a bit more of an edge to his portrayal of Huck Finn. He's personable and vocally talented, but he just comes off a bit too light to be believable. Tim Scott's murderous Injun Joe, is a bit tepid as well. Perhaps it's just the very thought of that character breaking into song that doesn't particularly work for me. Or maybe it's just the fact that it's played without any trace of Indian heritage. Tina Marie Casamento is very good, as Tom's beleaguered Aunt Polly and her fine voice shines on several numbers. William Broderick, John Flack, April Woodall, Greg Faupel and Bob Bohon as Tom's bratty brother Sid, lend solid support.

Jan Swanks' direction has the cast and crew moving briskly through the many brief scenes and transitions that take place and allow the story to be condensed into a two hour musical. Swanks has the cast energetic and focused and the laughs are well timed. Only the climatic scene in the cave seems a bit lost in execution. Kristen Nordstrom's choreography is pleasant and simplistic with the cast generally in sync. The musical direction of James Woodland is sharp with the full company numbers like "Hey, Tom Sawyer"  and "Ain't Life Fine"  standing out with their rich and polished sound. Adam Miecielica's set design bears a bit of a resemblance to a fort made out of "Lincoln Logs" , but the stage's depth is utilized smartly with objects lowered from the rafters to flesh out different locations. The lighting design of John Wylie is effective, especially in the cave and cemetery scenes.

This is a really cute and light show that's safe for the whole family, although there is a bit of violence that might disturb some younger kids. Ludwig's script adds enough laughs to Twain's already humorous story to compensate for any musical shortcomings present. The fine performance of Kinney is reason enough to attend.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer continues through July 4th (2007) at the Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, MO. For ticket information call (660) 837-3311 or visit online at www.lyceumtheatre.org .

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