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Roger Miller at home in 1965, serenading his Grammy Awards. (Ralph Crane)

“I’m not sure I can do this thing,” Roger Miller said the first time we met to discuss Big River. “I’ve only seen two Broadway musicals in my life—one was My Fair Lady and the other was George in the Park with Sunday.”

Roger, of course, was pretending he was simpler than he was, because that’s how a Good Ol’ Boy shows he’s smarter than you—with irony. Just as Huckleberry Finn, in Mark Twain’s novel, declares he’s bad after making the best choice of his life: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell…I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it….And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again.”

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February 7, 2017 by New York City Center


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

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