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For the week of Mar. 8 through Mar. 14, 2000

Sing along with
Huck and Jim

Middle school students and Wildfire Theatre Project stage
"Big River"

Express Staff Writer

Huck Finn and slave Jim float the Mississippi this weekend when Wood River Middle School students and the Wildfire Theatre Project stage Big River, the musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s 1885 classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The award-winning musical captures Huck, Jim and other familiar Twain characters—Tom Sawyer, Pap Finn, Mary Jane Wilkes and the Widow Douglas—in 1860, when slavery and racism were entrenched.

"The raft ride to freedom in Big River is both educational and delightful entertainment, which is one of the goals of the production," said Big River director and Wildfire Theatre Project founder Cathy Reinheimer.

Bringing Twain’s world to life is no small feat. Close to 100 middle school students and four adult actors are involved in acting, costuming, staging and lighting Big River.

Reinheimer, a local acting coach and member of the Actors Studio in New York, is getting help from an impressive array of theater professionals. Musical director Virginia Allen is on the conducting faculty of the Juilliard School in New York. A published composer, Allen was an instructor for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Workshop last year.

Choreographer Anna Senechal’s credits include choreography for local productions of Oliver!, Town Mouse and Country Mouse and Jack and the Beanstalk. She is perhaps familiar to most for her riveting performance onstage as Carol in Company of Fools’ recent production of Oleanna.

Boise actor, singer and writer Keith Anderson, who plays Jim, lends his expertise not only as a performer but as an activist. Through his Boise television show, newspaper column in the Idaho Press Tribune of Nampa and volunteer work, Anderson continues to fight against racism. He is on the board of directors of the Idaho Black History museum.

Providing the onstage music for the production are the Boulder Brothers.

Big River won seven Tony Awards in 1985, including Best Musical. Roger Miller wrote the music and lyrics. The scores have been adapted for young voices by Allen.

"This is a rare opportunity for the often overlooked middle school children to participate in all aspects of the production, from acting to staging to lighting to choreographing," Reinheimer said.

Currently, the Wood River Middle School does not have a theater program. Reinheimer said she hopes her nonprofit Wildfire Theatre Project will continue its association with the middle school, acting as a kind of "mini conservatory within the school."

Big River opens Friday at 7 p.m. at the Sun Valley Opera House and continues its run Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. There will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $12 for adults. $8 for ages 14 and under. Sunday matinee prices are discounted. For additional information, call Miri Black at 578-0324.


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