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Big River - Qualified Perceptions
Big River
Last night was Big River at the Lyric Stage. I was teasing mathhobbit with the Boston Globe review, which summarized to "It was good, but not nearly as good as the amazing Nicholas Nickleby from last year"; I wasn't very fond of NN, and she really didn't like it (and it took up two show slots!). Happily, from our point of view, it was not "not nearly as good as Nicholas Nickleby.".

The music was generally catchy and fun; I'm not really sure why there was a song with Tom Sawyer singing a paean to hogs, but it was cute. At the beginning, I think that the cast and orchestra weren't quite in step, but then they got to Pap Finn's "Dad Gum Guvmint", and he nailed what seemed to me to be dad gum difficult timing with while making it seem effortless enough to do while drunk, so I forgave them all again.

The stage's board backdrop started out with the occasional illustration from the book projected on it, which was okay, but when they got on the river, it switched to actual river - video of water and bank, tweaked to look more illustrated-style, and that really worked well for me. It put them very solidly On A River.

I did wonder about the rafting going on here. What is Huck doing? (The rope is attached to the front of the raft). Is he steering? Just bracing in case of rough water? (The set was, unsurprisingly, not up to the task of raft lurches) It looks like he's doing something useful, the way Jim is poling, but I have zero experience with this kind of river rafting and can't tell what it is.
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mathhobbit From: mathhobbit Date: September 15th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm thinking that does something like shift the center of mass of the raft, lifting the front so it can go over ... something. Or maybe so that there's less resistance to ... something? My understanding of physics has never been sufficient to understand the forces involved in pulling on the thing you're standing on, but my gut says that if I stand on a floating thing and do what Huck is doing in the picture then the floating thing will tip.

(The story problem with the window washer and the platform and the pulley is the reason I'm not an astrophysicist.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 15th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I see what you're thinking.
My physics intuition says he should be leaning back, not forward (and maybe standing?) to make that work better; putting his center of mass behind his feet instead of in front of them. (Maybe the important thing there is shifting the center of mass, and the rope is just to keep from falling over, in that case?)

I've been spending the last five minutes constructing imaginary stick rafts in my head, and tying bits of them together with imaginary string...
mathhobbit From: mathhobbit Date: September 15th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I think my instincts are about leaning off the rail of a small sailboat while holding the sheet of the main sail, which is a completely different physics problem. I'm sure there's a force diagram here, though. Do you know any physicists we could ask?
From: desireearmfeldt Date: September 15th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
From listening to the album and reading the liner notes plot summary, I'd always imagined that the point of How 'Bout a Hand for the Hog was that you see Huck running around in pantomime doing the death-faking (involving a dead pig), while Tom is doing this vaudeville-style voice-over -- and that it's a slightly ironic? surreal? juxtaposition of the totally goofy comic song with Huck throwing around blood in order to escape from his abusive father. In this version, Huck's fussing around was minimal and obviously did not involve any pig-related visuals, so I think the joke was mostly lost.

The other purpose of the song, of course, is to give Tom a little more to do before he "disappears for the length of a Bible." :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 15th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I did toy with the idea of it being "Make sure the audience doesn't forget who Tom is until we see him again" but... he's Tom Sawyer, I'm not going to forget him! :) I can imagine the juxtaposition being interesting, though.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: September 15th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
And I have to say, because I may not get around to bothering writing a post of my own on this specific topic: I think the highlight of the show for me was Huck's physicality. (I really enjoyed his performance in general & thought he was both cute and well-cast. But I was particularly impressed with his use of his body.)
mathhobbit From: mathhobbit Date: September 15th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked Jim's singing.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: September 15th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was good, too.
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