Big River

Vincent Hale (left) is Jim, and Benjamin George is Huckleberry Finn in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s McLeod Summer Playhouse production of ‘Big River.’ (Photo by Steve Buhman)

June 17, 2015

Summer Playhouse series opens with ‘Big River’

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The heart of “Big River,” the musical adventures of Huckleberry Finn, kicks off the Southern Illinois University Carbondale McLeod Summer Playhouse subscription series. The show opens Friday, June 19. 

This Tony Award-winning show is a musical version of Mark Twain’s classic novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Audiences will love the hand-clapping, foot-stomping music from Grammy Award-winner Roger Miller. 

In the play, Huck Finn, best pal to fellow rascal Tom Sawyer, finds himself under the guardianship of Widow Douglas and her spinster sister, Miss Watson. The two have plans to “civilize” Huck. Huck escapes them, but runs into his drunken and volatile father Pap. To get away from Pap, Huck fakes his own death and hides out on a nearby island – where he finds Jim, a former slave, also on the run. Huck offers to help Jim reach freedom, and together they travel down the Mississippi River, sharing exciting and dangerous adventures. 

This MSP production features all 26 members of the summer theater company, with Benjamin George and Vincent Hale in the starring roles of Huck Finn and Jim. Cody Walker, SIU music theater faculty member, directs this production, and Mark Varns, SIU professor of theater and lighting design, handled the sets and lighting. Tim Fink, professor of opera and musical theater, serves as musical director and MSP orchestra conductor. 

“Big River” is perfect for the entire family. The production runs June 19-21 and June 26-28 in the McLeod Theater. Tickets are $27 for adults and $12 for students. As a special promotion for families to attend, tickets for children under 12 cost $8. Get tickets at the McLeod or SIU Arena box offices week-days noon to 5 p.m.; call 618/453-6000 or online at