Tom Sawyer hits the stage in Eagle
Vail CO, Colorado
“School is out, and the sun is, too;
I’m throwin’ my books away.”
“Ain’t Life Fine,” from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
That devil-may-care attitude sums up what has made Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” one of the most beloved juvenile characters in literature for 130 years. Tom’s boyish nature is irrepressible, and his adventures exemplify the trials and tribulations of growing up.
Eagle Valley High School will bring the American classic to life in exuberant style this weekend. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the Broadway Musical” is a lively, wholesome show the entire family will enjoy.
Set in 1840 on the banks of the Mississippi River in America’s heartland, the story of Tom Sawyer (Sage Smith) tells of a spunky 14-year-old boy who is, at times, a bit too mischievousness, bold and smart for his own good. He can talk schoolmaster “Miss Dobbins” (Sarin Weeks) into letting the class out for a day, and connive classmates into painting “Aunt Polly’s” (Ashley Rohweder) fence for him. He even tries to trick the “Reverend Joshua Sprague” (Chris Hing), and then dreams of running away to “have adventures.”
He is aided and abetted by his best friend, town outcast, “Huckleberry Finn” (Ethan Smith), and new girl-in-town, “Becky Thatcher” (Emily Lorenzi), with whom he is smitten. The feeling is mutual.
It’s one of Tom and Huck’s late night adventures that gets him into big trouble with a murderer, Injun Joe (Jake Dutmer). It leads to the play’s cliff-hanging, life-threatening moment for all three. Ethan Smith, a senior at EVHS, is Tom’s best friend in the play, and his brother in real life. Ethan, who will be heading to CSU next fall to study landscaping, explains his character as “a little rough around the edges,” but laid back. The latter is a characteristic Smith can identify with, but he finds it challenging play the illiterate “Huck” and pretend not to know how to read phonics.
Sage explains that his character, “Tom,” is “usually up to no good or some sort of mischief. But he’s always good at heart.” This is his second year acting in the high school plays; last year, he was the “Lion” in the “Wizard of Oz.” He hopes to do theater in college at either the University of Colorado, Boulder, or Colorado College.
This is senior Lorenzi’s first play. She was surprised to learn she’s won the role of Becky. She sees her as a sophisticated and elegant young girl, whose personality changes a bit over the course of the play. Lorenzi acknowledges the biggest challenge of her part is keeping a straight face because she is having so much fun with the other cast members.
Although Tom, Huck and Becky are the story’s intrepid trio, the musical is filled with one memorable character after the other, from Aunt Polly to villainous Injun Joe, to the Widow Douglas (Sierra Murphy) and Judge Josiah Thatcher (Cassidy Kuhn), to Tom’s bratty half-sibling, Sidney Sawyer (Jessica Alvis).
Rohweder explains her character, Aunt Polly, is “stern, but I think she has a kind heart.”
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the Broadway Musical” is not as well known to audiences as some of Broadway’s smash hits, and was overshadowed by “The Producers” when it debuted in 2001. But regional audiences are rediscovering and falling in love with this classic turned musical.
Director Cathy Strickler admits she and music teacher Pat Sheehy weren’t familiar with the musical at all, when they stumbled across it on a musical website.
“I really wanted to do Aladdin” or Disney’s “Little Mermaid,'” she explains. But all that were available were “junior” versions with just one act. Upon closer examination, the pair decided Tom Sawyer would be a good fit. They liked the script and were impressed by the show’s music, by Don Schlitz. “Both Pat and I just loved the music, it was so fun,” she says.
The show includes mostly catchy, upbeat tunes. But there are more haunting numbers, too, such as “Angel’s Lost,” where Aunt Polly pleas for the rescue of the children from the cave.
The students have been in rehearsal since January and, as in any production, much work goes on behind the scenes before the curtains go up.
A lot of that has fallen onto the shoulders of senior Bobby Gates, the show’s stage manager. This is Gates’ fourth year working backstage. But this year, making sure scenery, such as giant rocks and flats, are built correctly and set ” often in under 30 seconds in the dark ” and everyone is in place is up to him and his stage crew. “It’s challenging, figuring out where everything goes and making sure everything fits.” In fact, if they have a stage crew at Western State College next fall, you’ll likely find him there.
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