“Big River” was the first Broadway musical I saw in New York City. If I’m remembering correctly, it was only the second Broadway show I’d ever seen, the first being the traveling run of “The King and I” at the Orpheum in Memphis. Of that show I remember only the shiny bald head of Yul Brynner and my mother’s swooning over him. She was knocked out by that bald guy, and I didn’t quite get that or the general appeal of the show. So, I’m sure I wasn’t all that thrilled a couple of years later to be standing in the half-price ticket line in what was then a very seedy Times Square. It was pretty squalid back then (the Disneyfication of Times Square would come later), and I was pretty apprehensive as to what my mom had in store for me.
When she said we were going to see “Big River,” I’m sure I rolled my eyes. I did a lot of that in those years. When she told me it was the story of Huck Finn (with her history-teacher eyes all aglow), I probably rolled my eyes again, this time adding a groan. I was in for a double dose of musical theater and education. What could be worse?
But “Big River” converted me into a musical theater enthusiast. The show swept the Tony’s that year for a reason. The music and the story are just so good, so moving, that even this eye-roller was swept away on that raft with Huck and Jim. And AST’s Huck (Alex Goley) and Jim (De’Lon Grant)–well, they are a brilliant pair, with voices so pitch-perfect that you just might swoon. I know I did.