Show History



The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a musicalized version of the classic novel by Mark Twain, set in Missouri in the 1840s. The seeds for the musical were planted in the early 1990s at a Nashville songwriters' retreat, which was held in the attempt to draw some country artists to write for Broadway. Don Schlitz, a Grammy-winning songwriter who has written country hits for everyone from Kenny Rogers to Randy Travis to Mary-Chapin Carpenter, had been invited to attend the day-long seminar and was impressed with what he heard. The late director Mike Ockrent connected him with bookwriter Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You) to start working on the show. Over the course of six or so years, Schlitz claims that he wrote between 75 to 80 songs for the musical.

In adapting the novel to the stage, Ludwig kept many of the major facets of the story intact. Most notably missing is the rather dark ending from the book, that of Injun Joe being accidentally sealed inside McDougal's Cave, later discovered to have starved to death. Instead, the musical ends with Tom, Huck and Becky observing their own funerals, and the friends celebrating with the rest of the town.


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer premiered at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, on February 28, 2001. The cast featured Joshua Bell as the title character, in addition to performances from Kristen Bell, Tom Aldredge, Jane Connell and John Dossett. The production then moved to Broadway, opening at the Minskoff Theater on April 26, 2001. However, in a Broadway season dominated by The Producers, the musical was short-lived and it closed on May 13, after 21 performances and 34 previews. However, it has gained new legs in regional houses and has become a popular choice among community theatres across America.


  • The Broadway production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was nominated for two Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards. It was also nominated for a Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Musical.