Big River
Closed 2h 30m
Big River
80

Big River NYC Reviews and Tickets

80%
(114 Reviews)
Positive
92%
Mixed
6%
Negative
2%
Members say
Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful, Great acting, Dated

About the Show

Encores! presents a concert version of the 1985 Tony Award-winning musical based on 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.'

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Member Reviews (114)

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71
Dated, Disappointing, Slow

See it if Nice to revisit a show from my past but thought it felt dated. Performances were weaker than I remember. Missable.

Don't see it if You need a fully staged show with sets and costume changes, etc...

75
Great acting, Slow, Resonant, Good singing, Disappointing

See it if Lackluster presentation of Miller's Tony winner. Nick Barasch & Kyle Scatliffe shine as Huck & Jim & duets are high point esp Worlds Apart

Don't see it if DeBessonet's vision rather dark yet pointed taking some of the sugar off Miller's songs; music doesn't really gel with story. 2nd act drifts

Critic Reviews (20)

The New York Times
February 9th, 2017

"If you are looking for a Huckleberry of irresistible sweetness and rambunctious naïveté, then Lear deBessonet’s buoyant Encores! production is the place to find him...Yet it can’t mask the feeling of anachronism that dogs this show...'Big River' feels like an awkward fit for this moment...It is hard to watch a story that’s framed as the tale of Huck and Jim without being bothered by how sidelined Jim is, and how very white and male anyone who has a substantial role is."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
February 9th, 2017

"You will not be able to watch 'Big River' without squirming...Other than Jim...the black characters are entirely undifferentiated and unattached to the plot...The authors treat Jim exactly as Huck and the others do: That is, they mostly ignore him...I’m not saying that a story about white people’s awakening to the immorality of slavery doesn’t deserve to be told. But in 2017 you can’t use a chorus line of slaves just to decorate that story with unmoored testifying and gospel thrills."
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The Hollywood Reporter
February 10th, 2017

"An all-too-limited engagement justifies its existence with its winning exuberance, terrific performances, and the top-flight musicianship...Landesman has provided a streamlined concert adaptation of Hauptman’s book that keeps the episodic story line flowing as smoothly as the Mississippi River. But the show’s strength has always been the terrific score by the late Roger Miller...Director Lear deBessonet provides a lively staging...This is a 'Big River' which deserves to flow on much longer."
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Deadline
February 9th, 2017

"The Encores! production of 'Big River' is, in a word, perfect. And, in a few other words, moving, powerful and exhilarating...This superb version...is staged by Lear deBessonet, who has done miraculous work at the Public Theatre. It’s spirited and lively and the cast couldn’t be better: up-and-comer Nicholas Barasch as the game but sometimes conflicted Huck; Kyle Scatliffe resonant and powerful as Jim; and a supporting cast of veterans that makes meals of every role."
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AM New York
February 10th, 2017

"The relevance and appropriateness of 'Big River' and its source material are open to question in the current political and cultural environment...In my opinion, both works take on extended relevance today..."The Encores! production proves to be unusually polished, dramatically compelling and often fun and joyful...A score based on the sounds of bluegrass, Americana and gospel is no longer a rarity, but 'Big River' sounds as fresh and flavorful as ever here."
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Theatermania
February 9th, 2017

"It sounds better than ever...Scatliffe gives the standout performance of the evening: His delivery is vocally spectacular and he seems to sweat urgency from his pores...Lear deBessonet's production captures the matter-of-fact cruelty of the world according to Twain: Lines that make a modern audience blush are delivered without so much as a second thought...Everything comes together for Miller's distinctive country and bluegrass sound, which keeps our toes tapping throughout the evening."
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BroadwayWorld
February 12th, 2017

"'Big River' turns out to be more pleasant than polished. Though Miller wrote a very attractive collection of songs, few of them are specific to the characters and plot...Despite the significantly smaller cast and modest production values, deBessonet and her terrific company smoothly navigate the ever-changing landscape of the musical's episodic journey."
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Talkin' Broadway
February 10th, 2017

"Emphasizing Miller's score only exacerbates the issues that already exist...It doesn't matter how good Rob Berman's orchestra sounds...if it all comes across as literature night at a condemned honky-tonk...This approach ends up transforming everyone outside the central foursome into extras rather than integral participants in the narrative...The problem with 'Big River' in general, and this version in particular, is that you don't really care about much."
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TheaterScene.net
February 12th, 2017

"With its delightful performances, lively staging, and Roger Miller’s sparkling country and bluegrass score, this Encores! revival of 'Big River' is splendid and thoughtful entertainment...Mr. Barasch is onstage virtually the entire time and winningly carries the show. Kyle Scatliffe brings dignity, forcefulness and powerful vocal ability during his commanding performance...Director Lear deBessonet vigorously integrates all of the production’s elements into a compelling presentation."
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Theater Pizzazz
February 9th, 2017

"Lear deBesonnet’s simply but thoughtfully staged production of this enchanting musical is both entertaining and enlightening...The entire production benefits from such savvy casting...One of the continually surprising elements of the show is the versatility of the score by Roger Williams...In this era where racism has reared back into the forefront of many people’s consciousness, Twain’s not-so-subtle commentary on slavery resonates in a way it didn’t in its previous two productions."
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Front Mezz Junkies
February 9th, 2017

"The Encores! production of 'Big River' feels as twangy and bluegrass as can be, filled with melodic moments of beauty and history. It starts out floating on the charm and winning character of Huck Finn, played with the perfect balance of fire and freckles by Barasch...The weakness lies in the book, not the music or lyrics. The book attempts to address racism and slavery, and it does in many thoughtful ways, but seems to minimize Jim’s role in comparison to the teenage boys."
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New York Theater
February 11th, 2017

"A pleasant enough confection but with a bitter aftertaste...As rendered by a large, talented cast and a ten-piece orchestra of the usual Encores! caliber, Miller’s score holds up, a mix of honky tonk, bluegrass, rousing gospel and Miller’s signature novelty songs...This did not strike me as a weighty enough production...Lines should land harder than they do. Part of the problem may be Nicholas Barasch...His Huck is too bland, with little of the mischievous schemer in his eye."
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Times Square Chronicles
February 11th, 2017

"Magnificently played by its onstage ten-piece orchestra and sung brilliantly by its cast...Landesman has provided a streamlined concert adaptation of Hauptman’s book that allows the show to ebb and flow. Director Lear deBessonet and choreographer Rhodes have kept the staging streamlined and energetic, yet with plenty of wonderful dance numbers to satisfy...Hauptman’s book is weak in a lot of areas, but Miller’s score is lush and worth listening to. The Encore production is Broadway worthy."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
February 11th, 2017

"A new, lively concert-style staging...The plot is very incident-packed and a bit too sprawling. Still, the essence of Twain’s vision is there, wrapped in the twang-y country-style score mixed with passionate songs...Nicholas Barasch makes a delightfully rebellious Huck, who befriends Jim, played with dignity by Kyle Scatliffe…The production, set along the Mississippi River Valley in the 1840s, has some nifty numbers with the ensemble adding strength backing the soloists."
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Theater In The Now
February 18th, 2017

“A simple yet enthralling production with no frills attached…This version of ‘Big River,’ the production let the music soar and the story take center stage while your imagination ran wild...Overall production was so strong, it's easy to forgive the lack of super power 'Muddy Water' ended up having…Between a beautiful score and a classic story, Big River will shine on within the canon of musical theater. New York City Center has done an extraordinary job celebrating this work."
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Newsday
February 10th, 2017

"The 17 songs were the best things about “Big River” then. And they are the best part of the semi-staged concert revival...The show struck me as bland and surprisingly ho-hum in the original and, despite a fine cast in director Lear DeBessonet’s pleasant story-theater production, I still think the journey’s a bore...Nicholas Barasch has the presence and the look as Huck, though his singing only comes alive in duets with Kyle Scatliffe’s imposing, sensitive Jim."
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Epoch Times
February 11th, 2017

“Barasch, who perfectly embodies the character of Huck, does an excellent job of making this morally ambiguous individual both fascinating and likeable. Sieber and Pittu do fine jobs as the Duke and the King. Sieber in particular, his character an actor by trade, hilariously mangles the words of Shakespeare in an attempted soliloquy...Deceptively simple and totally compelling, ‘Big River’ offers a strong lesson about people caught up in a painful moment in America’s past."
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Z
February 14th, 2017

"Even if one were to accede that 'Big River' could pass as a play with music rather than a traditional musical, the play itself is no great shakes. Hauptmann's book plods and meanders...The inert Encores! production certainly didn’t do the broad-brush songs and ambling script any favors. DeBessonet’s static staging only seemed to make the many dull stretches in both acts of the show seem to go on even longer. What few joys this Encores! staging provided were in the casting."
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Theatre Reviews by John Clum
February 12th, 2017

"Miller's generous score, filled with bluegrass, country and gospel, is very much worth hearing. Some songs seem tangential, but the novel is so episodic that not much justification for a rousing song is necessary...Barasch is charming and sings and dances like an old pro. Jim, the slave, is a tricky part to play in the 21st century. Scatliffe gives him great strength, integrity and pathos...The production didn't win me over to Twain's book, but reminded me of of how talented Miller was."
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Edge New York
February 9th, 2017

"Though not crafted quite to typical Broadway standards, Miller's songs have infectious melodies and exude loads of character...The book by William Hauptman is solid, but perhaps a little less successful than the score, possibly because some of the book's shenanigans aren't as entertaining without Twain's inimitable voice...The production is blessed with a terrific cast...The stars of the show are the best reasons to see this 'Big River.'"
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