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Ron Richardson and Daniel Jenkins in the original Broadway production of Big River. (Martha Swope/©Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL for the Performing Arts)

This February, Roger Miller’s classic musical Big River will return to New York in an Encores! revival. Below, producer Rocco Landesman offers a rollicking account of the show’s unlikely creation.

“If I’d a knowed what trouble it was to enact this history I never would a tackled it.” We certainly didn’t know, my wife Heidi and I, what we were in for, as we drove from our home in Brooklyn to a rare Roger Miller concert at the Lone Star Cafe in lower Manhattan. Could Roger Miller, we wondered out loud, write a Broadway musical?

The American musical and country music, we had long felt, were much closer in form and spirit than was generally thought, with their emphasis on lyrics in the service of storytelling and hummable melodies. Roger, I knew with total certainty, was a genius, the greatest American songwriter; he could do anything.

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January 17, 2017 by New York City Center

We’re delighted to announce casting for the Encores! production of Big River, Roger Miller’s Tony Award-winning musical about friendship, freedom, and the untamed Mississippi. Fresh off his Theatre World Award-winning turn as Arpad in She Loves Me, Nicholas Barasch will make his Encores! debut as the scrappy, restless dreamer Huckleberry Finn, who flees “sivilization” by way of a makeshift raft on the Mississippi River. His copilot: the runaway slave Jim (The Color Purple’s Kyle Scatliffe, also making his Encores! debut). Along the way, they encounter 1840s America in all its beauty and savagery—as epitomized by the mourning innocent Mary Jane Wilkes (Lauren Worsham) and the deliciously seedy theatricals known as the Duke (Christopher Sieber) and the King (Tony Sheldon).

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December 15, 2016 by New York City Center

PAINT YOUR WAGON Cast  Recording Announcement
Alexandra Socha and Justin Guarini in Paint Your Wagon, photographed by Joan Marcus.

“Whoop-ti-ay,” indeed! On Friday, Masterworks Broadway will release the Encores! cast recording of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s rollicking Gold Rush musical Paint Your Wagon, and we’re happy to share two exclusive tracks from the album. Listen to Justin Guarini prove his Broadway bona fides once and for all with the soaring ballad “I Talk to the Trees,” and hear Alexandra Socha bring a scrappy sense of yearning to “How Can I Wait?”

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May 23, 2016 by New York City Center

Big River, The New Yorkers, The Golden Apple

We’re delighted to announce the 2017 season of City Center’s Tony-honored Encores! series, which will kick off with Roger Miller’s Big River from February 8-12, 2017. The season will continue with Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers, running from March 22-26, 2017, and close with Jerome Moross and John Latouche’s The Golden Apple, running from May 10-14, 2017. Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel explains why we’re bringing these shows back to life.

The 2017 Encores! season will lead audiences all across the USA—and take a hundred years to do it. Our 24th season features three distinct American regions and three historic time periods. Beginning with Big River, which is set along the Mississippi River Valley in the 1840s, we’ll move to the East Coast for Cole Porter’s 1930 Prohibition jape The New Yorkers, and conclude with a visit to the Pacific Northwest, where The Golden Apple retells the stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey, setting them at the base of that other Mount Olympus, at the end of the Spanish-American War.

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May 10, 2016 by New York City Center
Kelli O-Hara

Photo by Erin Baiano; Wardrobe Styling by Mia Tucker Williams; Kelli O’Hara Makeup by Tanya Rae and Hair by Chad Harlow; Victoria Clark Makeup by Deborah Altizio and Hair by Richard Keogh. Kelli O’Hara wears a top by The Korner. Victoria Clark wears earrings by Isharya and bodysuit by Bebe.

Theater people often make friends, and some even find spouses and partners, while working on shows together. But for actors forging original roles, the bonding can be especially intense. That was certainly the case for Tony Award winners Victoria Clark and Kelli O’Hara. In 2005, they starred as mother and daughter in Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ seminal, quasi-operatic musical The Light in the Piazza, resulting in a mutual admiration society that has mostly stayed offstage.

Until now. Just weeks after a Piazza reunion concert at Lincoln Center, O’Hara and Clark are joining MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale) for a rendition of Purcell’s early Baroque opera Dido and Aeneas at City Center from April 28–29. Ted Sperling conducts the piece, in which O’Hara plays the doomed mythical heroine with the famous lament (“When I am laid in earth”), while Clark plays a scheming sorceress intent on Dido’s doom. The two performers recently got together at City Center—where both are Board members—to talk about Dido and Aeneas, their craft, and their unique friendship.

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April 12, 2016 by New York City Center
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