PlayMakers’ “Big River” opens April 6, features Red Clay Ramblers

PlayMakers Repertory Company will conclude its 35th anniversary main-stage season with “Big River” April 6-24.

The Tony Award-winning musical features a score of gospel, folk and country music, which The Red Clay Ramblers, also Tony winners, will perform live during the shows. “Big River” will be the first musical in more than a decade for the professional theater company in residence at UNC. PlayMakers also will host related community events from March 21 through April 24.

“Big River,” adapted from Mark Twain’s landmark novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” won Drama Desk Awards and seven Tony Awards for its 1985 Broadway debut and 2003 revival, including best book, best score and best musical. Music and lyrics are by country music legend Roger Miller (“King of the Road,” “Dang Me”), and the book is by William Hauptman, author of plays, musicals and short stories.

“Big River” follows Huck Finn and his friend, run-away slave Jim, on their adventures traveling the mighty Mississippi River in search of freedom. Their story has become an honored piece of American folklore and the novel, an American classic.

The Hollywood Reporter called the show “ambitious, daring, captivating and outright terrific.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “Like the mighty metaphor of its title … [‘Big River’] seeps into the soul and transports you to a place that is complicated and mysterious, profoundly moving and soul cleansing.”

PlayMakers’ producing artistic director Joseph Haj will direct the production. The Ramblers’ Jack Herrick will act as music director. Herrick and the Ramblers also collaborated on the original Broadway-bound production in 1984. The Ramblers earned a special Tony in the 1990s for their collaboration on “Fool Moon.”

All “Big River” performances will be in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and Sunday, April 10; 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16 and 23; and 2 p.m. Sundays. Additional performances have been added because of popular demand. For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529). Tickets are $10 to $45.

Read more about the musical and the community events.