Theater to present The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published April 16, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

Ready for their upcoming performances in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer the Broadway Musical are Will Porter, from left, who plays Huckleberry “Huck” Finn; Luke Foster, who plays Tom Sawyer; and Annslee Clay, who plays Becky Thatcher.

BENTON — Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn will bring all their shenanigans to life when the Royal Players and Middlebrooks Electric Services of Benton present The Adventures of Tom Sawyer the Broadway Musical later this month.

Show times are 7 p.m. April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, and 2 p.m. April 23 and 30 at the Royal Theatre, 111 S. Market St. in downtown Benton. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 60 and older and military personnel, and $5 for ages 3 to college students with a school ID. Tickets can be purchased online at www.theroyalplayers.ticketleap.com. For phone reservations, call (501) 315-5483, and pay at the box office. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tony Clay of Sheridan will direct the two-act play, written by Ken Ludwig, with music and lyrics by Don Schlitz and based on the novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, written by Mark Twain.

“It is the traditional story based on the book we have all read and loved,” said Clay, who is making his directorial debut with the Royal Players, although he has been involved in many at the local theater during the past several years. “This play is family-friendly, although there is a death scene.”

Clay said the musical comedy presents the tale of a 14-year-old boy, Tom Sawyer, growing up in the 1840s in St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Tom matches wits with various characters, including his strict Aunt Polly, and falls in love with Becky Thatcher, the “girl next door.”

Clay said Tom and Becky, along with his friend, Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, have the “adventures of a lifetime,” including run-ins with the villain Injun Joe.

“It’s a large cast,” Clay said. “We have a total of 35 actors, with 21 kids in the show ranging in age from 11 to 15.

“We are about three weeks out [as of April 1], and pretty much everyone is off book,” he said. “Everybody knows their music, and most of the scenes have been blocked. We are ready to go.”

Clay noted that there have been challenges with the play, including students being off for spring break.

“But the principals rehearsed during their spring break,” he said, smiling. “If it had not been for my stage manager, Phoebe Earles, and my co-producers, Melissa Glover and Laura Ferguson, [all of Benton], I would have lost my mind.”

Clay said there is a lot of singing in the upcoming play.

“It is musical theater,” he said. “To me, the best form of collaborative art is musical theater. This production involves singing, dancing, lighting, sets and live musicians.”

The principal players in the musical include the following:

• Luke Ferguson of Benton appears as Tom Sawyer.

Ferguson, the 13-year-old son of Laura and Pete Ferguson, attends Benton Middle School. He has been in several Royal Players productions, including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Cheaper by the Dozen and It’s a Wonderful Life, as well as The Little Mermaid Jr., A Charlie Brown Christmas and Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr. with the Young Players.

• Will Porter of Little Rock portrays Huckleberry Finn. Porter, the 13-year-old son of David and Robin Porter, is home-schooled through Hope Academy. He most recently appeared in Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr. with the Young Players and 13 with the Young Players Second Stage.

• Annslee Clay of Sheridan plays Becky Thatcher. Clay, the 13-year-old daughter of Tony and Lee Ann Clay, is home-schooled through the Arkansas Virtual Academy. She most recently appeared in Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr. with the Young Players and 13 with the Young Players Second Stage. She also student-directed It’s a Wonderful Life with the Royal Players.

• Robin Eiler of Little Rock portrays Aunt Polly. She is a dentist in Little Rock and is making her first appearance at the Royal. She previously appeared in the Weekend Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music in Little Rock.

• Eric McCallister of Benton appears as Judge Josiah Thatcher. He is making his stage debut in this play. He works for the Sysco Corp. food-service distribution network.

• Zac Hickman of Maumelle plays Injun Joe, the protagonist in the show. Hickman

has performed in other theaters throughout Arkansas. Clay said Hickman has signed a one-year contract with a theater in Branson, Missouri, and will be leaving the state following this show in Benton.

The cast also includes Greg Blacklaw as the Rev. Joshua Sprague, Carl McBride as Sheriff Gideon, Paul Johnston as Hartley Wood, Zachary Glover as Joe Harper, Katie McCallister as Susie Rogers, Melissa Glover as Sereny Harper, Jamie Partain as Jessica Rogers, Debbie Wright as Sally Bellamy and Sarah Clayton as the Widow Douglas, all of Benton.

Also in the musical are Johnny Jackson, who has a dual role as School Master Lemuel Dobbins and Defense Attorney Wain, Tim Huddleston as Muff Potter, William Alverio as Ben Rogers and Gretchen Bush as Lucy Harper, all of Bryant.

Carson Clay appears as George Bellamy, Jack Clay as Lyle Peters and Carrie Clay as Naomi Hollis, all of Sheridan.

Noah Lee of Haskell appears as Jim Hollis and Maverick Burlison of Malvern as Sidney Sawyer.

Also in the production are David Porter, who plays a dual role as Doc Robinson and the Mayor Lanyard Bellamy,

Darren Winkler as Alfred Temple, Kelton Ramsey as Samuel Clemons, Madison Stolzer as Amy Lawrence and Adelyn Eiler as Sabina Temple, all of Little Rock.

Rounding out the cast are JuliAnne Flora of Little Rock as Mary Wood; Hannah-Grace Fritz as Elizabeth Green, Kyra Griffin as Ann Jones and Daisy Medders as Emily Webb, all of Benton; and Amber Thompson of Bryant as Clara Wood and Alexandra Lanier, also of Bryant, as Jane Brown.

Among the orchestra members are Jo Murry of Little Rock on keyboard, Lynn Hoggard of Benton on bass and Caleb Clay of Sheridan on guitar.

D. Brent Miller of Sheridan is the musical director, and Moriah Patterson of Little Rock is the choreographer.

Light design is provided by Tony Clay and Sher Speer of North Little Rock; Speer is also the light engineer. Sound design is provided jointly by Tim Huddleston and Johnny

Jackson, both of Bryant; Charles Johnson of Little Rock is the sound engineer. Misty Jezierski of Benton provides props design and supervision.

The show includes set design by Tony Clay and set construction by Tony Clay, Greg Blacklaw of Benton, Carl McBride of Benton, Tim Huddleston, and Hillary Bell of Benton.

Costumes were designed by Tony Clay and Jeana Hutson of Benton, who is also head costumer, with costume coordination by Lee Ann Clay of Sheridan and assistance with costuming provided by Michelle Alverio of Bryant and Sharilyn McCallister of Benton. Additional publicity is provided by Carissa Lumpkins of Haskell and Phoebe Earles.

The play is produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International of New York City.

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