Natchez Little Theatre prepares for new season
Published 12:13 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016
NATCHEZ — Friendships and life lessons can come in the most unexpected, and sometimes hilarious, situations, something Huckleberry Finn learns in “Big River,” which begins next week at the Natchez Little Theatre.
The musical, the first show of the theater’s 68th season, is based on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
Tim Leak, who plays Huck, remembers reading about the adventurous, but also troublesome, boy when he was younger.
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“I liked him then, I like him now,” Leak said.
Back then, Leak admits he associated more with the character of Tom Sawyer, Huck’s friend. The musical, however, has helped Leak appreciate Huck as someone on a journey from one point of view to the next.
It’s a journey in both the literal and figurative sense as Huck travels by raft along the Mississippi River with Jim, a runaway slave in search of his freedom.
Jim is portrayed by Benta Thomas, who said the two gradually form a close bond.
“He (Jim) was looking for someone to trust and Huck Finn had his back the whole time,” Thomas said.
Director Don Vesterse said it’s a learning experience for Huck. Eventually, Huck begins to understand Jim more, to see that he has the same feelings that white people do.
It’s something Leak has also noticed about the character.
“He comes to a point where he can’t keep treating Jim like he has been,” Leak said.
And, in the end Huck decides to help Jim because it’s the right thing to do, rather than something from which he’ll benefit. It’s that journey that Leak loves, one that begins when the curtain rises and ends when it falls.
But the story is more than a friendship and the rights of man. The story is also about adventure, as the friends have to deal with two scoundrels in the form of The Duke and The King, conmen who entangle them in their schemes.
“You get the feeling of a boy’s dream, doing things unknown, being brave enough to do them,” Vesterse said.
But, in the end, the play is also what the audience makes it, and is perhaps best summed up in Twain’s declaration, both in the book and the play — “Persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”
“Stop trying to figure it out,” Thomas said. “Enjoy the play, enjoy the story because, at the end of the story, everybody ends up happy.”
The play begins at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, and shows at the same time Friday, Jan. 29, and Saturday, Jan. 30, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Jan. 31. Tickets can be purchased online at natchezlittletheatre.org or by calling 601-442-2233.
Anyone interested in student matinees can contact Executive and Artistic Director Layne Taylor at the same number.