FORT WORTH Aunt Polly's fence gets whitewashed and Injun Joe gets his comeuppance with real zest in Casa Mañana Children's Theatre's highly engaging production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which opened Friday.
The key to the success of this show is director Joe Sturgeon's adaptation of Mark Twain's literary classic. He manages to cover the essential events in Tom's colorful youth and, better still, captures the folksy feel of the novel in this breezy romp. And he also does a great job of highlighting the moments in the protagonist's life that have natural appeal for young audiences.
This fine work by Sturgeon, who serves as director of theater for youth at Casa, is complemented by a cast that sparkles, from its youngest to its eldest members. Especially outstanding is Maurice Johnson, as Muff Potter. He augments his performance by singing snippets of folk songs and spirituals that often bridge scenes (another nice touch by Sturgeon) and is so good in those brief moments that you wish the show was an out-and-out musical.
On the point of music, the show also benefits from an inspired sound design by Jonathan Parke. There is nothing that special about the recorded score that underlies the action, but Parke and Sturgeon use it so well that it feels more like a movie soundtrack than incidental music for a stage work.
Finally, the scenic design by Katie Dill is simple but lovely. And Samuel Rushen's creative lighting design does a lot with it.
So there is little to fault and much to praise in this zestful adaptation of this well-known tale, which provides a great way to introduce youngsters to Twain's work. It's as sharp as Injun Joe's knife and as cute as Becky Thatcher's curls.