When his Aunt Polly issued the punishment to whitewash a fence, Tom Sawyer marketed his penalty as a privilege and the neighborhood kids bartered with him for the chance to help paint the fence. Tom Sawyer turned more lemons into lemonade in the March 29 dress rehearsal of Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s (RJJT) “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” based on Mark Twain’s American classic set in the 1800s. With a live band accompaniment, the show opened on March 31 and will run through April 9. (Visit www.rjjt.org for information about show times and ticket availability.)
“The story is about the adventures of Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn,” said Kevin Cornelius, recreation supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department. “Tom also falls in love with a new girl in town named Becky Thatcher. The story follows Huckleberry and Tom as they go to a graveyard at night and they witness someone being killed. Tom can’t stand to see the wrong person being arrested for the killing so he tells the truth and tells people the killer was Injun Joe, the villain of the play. Injun Joe says he’ll get revenge on Tom.”
Playing Tom Sawyer was Sean Wainzinger, 14. A highlight of Wainzinger’s performance was his comforting solo of “Light” while Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher were trapped in a dark cave.
“I think the story demonstrates a teenager’s coming of age and how he matures from boy to man from the things he learns on his spontaneous adventures,” Wainzinger said.
Also showing strong character development was Tom Sawyer’s loyal friend Huckleberry Finn, played by Nicky Caldwell, 15.
“Huckleberry Finn really wants to fit in because he hasn’t been fitting in,” Nicky Caldwell said. “His dad is not really a presence in his life and he lives in the woods. He doesn’t have a home and he’s not educated.”
Abby Caldwell, 13, showed the sweet side of Becky Thatcher.
“I think Becky likes Tom’s sense of adventure and I think Tom likes Becky’s kindness,” Abby Caldwell said. “Becky just wants to be kind and help people and be the best person that she can be.”
Sophia McDaniel, 17, played Widow Douglas, who patiently taught Huckleberry Finn how to read and eventually became a mother figure to him.
“I think part of the reason I really love my character is because a lot of the story revolves around Tom, and it’s important to see more of Huck’s life,” McDaniel said.
Abby Wheaton, 17, demonstrated Aunt Polly’s challenge of raising Tom Sawyer with tough love though her affection for him was evident.
“I think that Aunt Polly really does want Tom to succeed,” Wheaton said. “She knows that when he’s older, he has to work and she wants to prepare him for that.”
Both McDaniel and Wheaton credited their experiences at RJJT through the years for helping them meet new friends and become more outgoing and comfortable with public speaking. For both college-bound girls, this would be their last time acting in a RJJT production.