‘Big River’ opens Friday at Granada

Tyler Savin, playing the role of Huck, left, and Robert Summers, playing the role of Jim, perform during dress rehearsals Tuesday for San Benito Stage CompanyÕs Big River at the Granada Theater.

Even those in theater circles might not be as familiar with the San Benito Stage Company’s selection for a summer musical, opening tonight at the Granada Theatre. But show producer Anne Hall said the show has some great musical numbers and a storyline that will draw viewers in. The show “Big River – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” follows Tom Sawyer’s pal as he heads down the Mississippi River.

Hall said she thought they got less response during the audition period for the show than normal because it was not as well known.

“We do have a good cast and the play is really fun now that we know it,” Hall said, then referenced a past summer show. “But the play is not as well known as ‘The Music Man.’”

The other challenge with casting the play is that it has a higher number of male characters than most shows. The cast has 36 actors involved, ranging in age for 8-year-olds to those in their 70s.

“I think we ended up with a pretty good cast in the end,” Hall said.

Hall said the show follows Huck on his adventures down the river with an escaped slave, Joe.

“They go to different towns and have some adventures,” she said.

She said the music is different than standard Broadway songs. It was written by Roger Miller, who wrote country music in the 1960s. He wrote the score for “Big River,” which won seven Tony awards in 1985.

“The music is a lot of fun … it’s more Appalachian-style than country,” Hall said.

The set designer worked hard to bring the river to life on the stage. They use a fog machine to create the illusion of Huck and Joe moving down the water.

“It’s really great, given the scope and the budget for a local community theater show,” Hall said.

The actors began rehearsing on May 15 and will perform all four weekends in July.

Hall said one of the main reasons she signed on to produce the show is that Sarah Smith was signed on to direct it. Smith and Hall worked together on the dinner theater show “Lend Me a Tenor.”

Smith, who served as a counselor at the Kids Rule Theater Camp last week, is younger than many of the members of the cast.

“But she’s been very good at commanding respect,” Hall said. “She has no problem giving direction.”

On the Friday before the July 6 opening, Hall said the holiday week would have the same final rehearsals as any tech week. The actors were expected to be in the theater on the Fourth of July, though Hall said they would work to get everyone out in time for fireworks.

“It’s showing all four weekends in July so that should give people an opportunity to work around vacation schedules,” she said. “It will be a fun evening in Hollister.”

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