Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Uncommon Theatre Company celebrates its 25th season with their spring show, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", a Broadway musical version of Mark Twain's semi-biographical and classic story. It is the story of a boy growing up in the heartland of America in 1840 in St. Petersburg, Missouri, a bustling town on the banks of the Mississippi River. Tom matches wits with his stern Aunt Polly, falls in love with the beautiful, feisty Becky Thatcher, and goes on the adventure of his life with Becky and that irresistible rascal, Huck Finn. Along the way we meet a dastardly villain named Injun Joe, Tom's bratty half-brother Sid and all the colorful characters of the town. The show is filled with foot-stomping, toe-taping songs by Don Schiltz and a warm funny book by Ken Ludwig which is suitable for the whole family. Director Laura Rotondo Canfield casts 47 talented children from 6 to 16 in this show and their energy is astounding as is this presentation. Bravo on a job well done.

Laura blocks this enormous cast with ease while music director Linda Barbieri teaches the cast their numerous musical numbers while Dave Coccia leads an eight piece orchestra. Laura's husband Rob choreographed all these children in some fun filled songs and the costuming of the 47 cast members is by Lisa Surrette. Laura gets the best out of these kids with some topnotch acting in these difficult roles and their talent shines brightly by rewarding them with a standing ovation at the end of the show. Set designer Keith Mottola uses backdrops, a white house on stage left, a brick school on stage right, set pieces and two enormous trees for the show. A word of praise for the set crew who kept the changes quickly moving all night long.

Making his debut in a leading role is sixth grade student, Tyler Appel and what a debut it is. This boy is dynamite as Tom Sawyer. He captures your attention from his first entrance to the curtain call. Tyler's acting and singing in this huge role is fabulous. His songs include "Here's My Plan" where he dreams all the adventures he is going to have and how people will be sorry once he is gone, "Smart Like That" where he tricks the other boys into whitewashing the fence, "It's in the Bible" where he explains how he enjoys the warrior battles in it and mistakenly includes Robin Hood in it and the lovely duet, "To Hear You Say My Name" where he declares his undying love for Becky. His crystal clear voice sells the songs to the crowd and his natural stage presence is outstanding. Bravo on a fantastic debut and I look forward to many more wonderful performances from this young boy in the future.

15 year old Emily Lovejoy does a wonderful job as Aunt Polly. She captures the strictness of the role but also shows a tenderness in her song, "This Time Tomorrow" where she sings of her love for Tom in a strong, soprano voice. She also does the lead in "Angels Lost", a gorgeous ballad that will tug at your heartstrings and is the best number in the show. (Aunt Polly and Judge Thatcher lament the loss of Tom and Becky in the cave and are joined by strong chorus members during this number.) 13 year old Julien Touafek plays the judge wonderfully, delivering his lines as this older man with ease. (He also plays the cranky school master.) His strong voice is heard in the angel song. Mickey White is hilarious as the lisping, bratty Sid Sawyer who is constantly getting Tom into trouble with his tattling on him. This boy is only 7 years old but he delivers his one liners like a seasoned pro. Another actor with a bright acting future ahead of him. Another sixth grader, Rob DiDomenico, tackles the role of Huck Finn who refuses to go school. In real life Rob ranked in the top 99% in the Johns Hopkins University talent search and he also played the role of Harold Hill in "The Music Man" in 2004. This lanky boy captures the mischievousness of Huck Finn and ends up rescuing Becky and Tom from Injun Joe in the cave. Pretty Becky is played by 7th grader, Maddie Ford. She has blond hair and sings beautifully in the duet "To Hear You Say My Name" and the "Angels Lost" reprise in the cave. Maddie's acting is wonderful, too especially in the flirting scenes.

High school junior Ricky Vita does a great job as the villainous, Injun Joe. He murders the doctor and tries to kill Tom, Huck and Becky as well as tries to frame his drunken cohort in body snatching, Muff Potter. 13 year old Lee Cohen is a hoot as the drunken, Muff who is beaten up and framed by the evil Joe. An outstanding performance is also delivered by 7th grader Brett Calo as Reverend Sprague. His great singing voice is heard in the chorus numbers and his dynamic acting ability is seen in his lengthy religious dialogue as the preacher. Brett shows the character's funny side during the show and also plays the role of the smarmy doctor who deals in digging up fresh corpses. 8th grader Rebecca Levenson gets to play the aged Widow Douglas who takes a shine to Huck and teaches him how to read. She gets to show off her singing talent in the duet with Huck called "I Can Read". Rebecca is also a featured soloist for the South End Jazz Festival on their latest CD, "Jazz for Kids". Kudos to all the rest of the talented cast and crew who made this a successful show. So for a trip back to Mark Twain's classic story set in the 1840's be sure to catch these talented children in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro.

"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (29 April - 1 May)
Orpheum Foxboro, 1 School St., FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 698-3098

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