It’s hard not to cringe at Mark Twain’s honest depictions of antebellum slavery; it’s harder still to strike up a catchy tune about it. But “Big River” delivers; capturing life under painful hypocrisy that still manages to be heartfelt fun.
Roger Miller’s tunes underscore Twain’s picaresque tale of Huck Finn (Andrew Mueller), who accompanies runaway slave Jim (Brian-Alwyn Newland) to freedom. Mueller makes a fine, multi-talented ingénue; his Disney-prince voice blends with Newland’s soaring vocals for show-stopping duets. Rashada Dawan captures the soul of the conflict in a couple of aching numbers. The show’s capable, multi-cast band pitches in as well; musical director Nick Davio and fiddler Hilary Holbrook see more action than a utility infielder. Ericka Mac’s choreography keeps things lively; Peter Marston Sullivan’s direction seamlessly integrates the musical elements, comedy and social commentary without ever losing the charm. It’s an entertaining look at a painful time. (Lisa Buscani)
The BoHo Theatre Ensemble at the Theatre Wit, 1229 West Belmont, (773)791-2393. Through October 10.