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Turlock teen takes on iconic character for second go around
Musical version of Huckleberry Finn opens in Merced
Big River
Turlock’s Aleq Bateman is reprising his role as Huckleberry Finn. - photo by Photo Contributed
For the second time in his short musical theater career, Turlock’s Aleq Bateman is taking on the role of the quick-witted and unruly Huckleberry Finn.
This time around the 18-year-old will play the iconic character in Playhouse Merced’s production of “Big River.”
“Huck Finn is essentially me,” Bateman said. “We are both carefree farm boys who run around barefoot.”
It seems fitting that Bateman would be taking on the role of Huck Finn in what could be one of his final shows with Playhouse Merced, because his involvement with the theater company began with the same character.
Four years earlier, Bateman went on his first audition, hoping to land a part in Playhouse Merced’s staging of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Only at the last minute did Bateman’s mom spring the surprise on him that his audition would require some singing.
Gulping down his nerves, Bateman made his way through the audition and in the process, found his passion.
“From that moment I discovered a love for singing,” Bateman said.
Bateman excelled in the role and went on to play parts in “Little Women: The Musical,” “Charlotte’s Web,” and “A Christmas Carol.”
Bateman said he had made a decision to forgo any more musicals because he is in his final semester of high school and is busy preparing and sending off college applications. But when the role of Huck Finn came up again, the lure to return was too strong to resist, he said.
“Music theater takes so much of your time, but I really wanted to be involved in this show, so I just learned to manage my time,” Bateman said.
Bateman is home-schooled through the charter school Connecting Waters. He’s applied to several colleges, including the University of Pacific, Belmont University in Nashville, and Yale University, who recently contacted him for an interview. He plans on majoring in English, unless he gets accepted to Belmont, where he’ll major in songwritting.
“Big River” is a Tony Award winning musical based on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. With a story by William Hauptman and songs written by Roger Miller (“King of the Road,” “Dang Me”), “Big River” is set in pre-civil war Missouri, and tells the quintessential American tale of runaway youngster Huckleberry Finn, as he ventures down the Mississippi River with escaped slave Jim.
Featuring a cast of 25 singers and dancers, “Big River” is directed and choreographed by Kitsy Olsen, musically directed by Patrice Stribling Nelson, with set design by Corey Strauss and costume design by Cindy DeFilippo.
“Big River” opens March 5 and plays though March 21.  Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets prices are: Children $8; students $10; seniors $17; and adults $20. Purchase tickets by calling the Playhouse Merced box office at 725-8587, or stopping by the theater at 452 West Main in downtown Merced.   
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.