Trouble just seems to follow Tom Sawyer, and Tom doesn’t seem to want to steer clear of it either.
Aunt Polly has her hands full raising both Tom and his brother Sid. The mischievous child is always in the middle of one pickle or another. He’s late for school, never finishes assignments, explores where he’s not supposed to go and sneaks around all with a twinkle in his eye and a tick in his pocket. When one of his adventures leads to witnessing a murder and knowing another is falsely accused, one can only wonder if this troublemaker will do the right thing.
Sara Spencer’s adaptation of Mark Twain’s classic “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” at the Cape Cod Theatre Company, Home of the Harwich Junior Theatre, touches on most of the high points of the novel. The stories truly cut across the years: the antics of Tom, Huck and Joe Harper, Aunt Polly’s steady frustration and adoration, the ah-shucks manner of Tom around Becky Thatcher, Tom’s charming manipulation as he gets others to whitewash the fence, and his courage when faced with the scary murderer Joe. It’s clear that director Rob Zapple has a deep affection for the show and its timeless messages. Zapple and his wife Michele (as choreographer) have collaborated on this show several times in their 33-year affiliation with the theatre. And each time it still resonates with both the young and the old in the audience.
Jared Strzepek captures every nuance of this rascal with a heart. It’s easy to see how and why Joe Harper, Huckleberry Finn, Becky and the others go along with his schemes. Strzepek is on stage most of the time and he never wavers in his portrayal of the charming yet complex character. Seamus Sartin is delightful as Huck Finn, Tom’s sidekick in all his adventures except those at the schoolyard. At school, Nicholas Allegretto stands up to Tom in dramatic fashion as his adversary Alfred Temple, and Jameson Zapple plays Joe Harper with spunk and a bit of apprehension. Caroline Hussey is downright adorable as the sweet yet feisty Becky Thatcher.
The ensemble cast of young actors all contribute excellently to the tale and each deserve a mention; they are Sam Haber, Arlo Danielson, Andrew Wronski, Bobby Plumb, Kayleigh Brown, Alice Murphy, Charlotte Kemp, Georgia Young, Ahnika Graham, Madeline Turner, Cadence Preston, Emily Carr and Reese Daley. The children embrace the clothes of the era (around the middle of the 19th century) as they scamper around and even when they do-si-do in Michele Zapple’s intricate choreography. The well-done and accurate costumes are designed by Frances Covais Lautenberger.
Dianne Wadsworth’s expressive manner and comedic timing give the role of Aunt Polly that extra punch. What a hoot! Andrew Haber’s Schoolmaster Dobbins was scary, but not as scary as David Wallace’s great portrayal of Joe, the murderer. Rod Owens was equally convincing as Muff Porter, the sweet town drunk falsely accused of the crime. Other town folks who all added another layer to the richness of this production are Jillian Annessi, Katie Buckley, Matt Kemp and Susie Davis-Broff. Jack Coughlin played the soon-to-be murder victim, Dr. Robinson, along with his stage manager duties.
The impressive set and lighting designed by James P. Byrne, transforms from classroom, to an island, a chapel, and even the caves under the steady hands of Coughlin and the cast. The clever use of historic scenes projected onto a huge screen added another dimension to the action unfolding in front of us. Kudos to the theater’s tech director Matthew Kohler for this. J Hagenbuckle’s sound design was also impressive, especially the echo effects in the cave. Lexi Hatch (projection operator), Jacobus Kwaak (sound board operator) and Calvin Kwaak (light board operator) all nailed their cues. High five to Marybeth Travis for the authentic props.
“Tom Sawyer” is an action-packed, enchanting show that the whole family will adore. Don’t forget to stay and meet the cast in their fantastic costumes after the show.
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"
At the Cape Cod Theatre Company, Home of the Harwich Junior Theatre
Through Aug. 5, Tuesdays to Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays -and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Information and reservations: 508-432-2002 ext. 2, www.capecodtheatrecompany.org