The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA
The classic Mark Twain story jumps off of the page in this adaptation of America's favorite book.
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

When the curtain rises, we see Tom Sawyer fishing happily in a meadow outside of St. Petersburg, Missouri, in 1840. When his friends arrive, he joins them in a game of Robin Hood. Tom's strict, but kindly, Aunt Polly sends him off to school, where he tricks the schoolmaster, Mr. Dobbins, into letting the class have the day off.

The next morning, Aunt Polly orders Tom to whitewash the fence in front of their house. Tom's half-brother, Sid, an insufferable goody-goody, couldn't be happier. Frustrated, Tom sings about his plan to run away someday and have adventures ("Here's My Plan").

As Tom procrastinates, he meets a beautiful newcomer to the town, Becky Thatcher. They're instantly attracted to each other. Next, along comes Tom's best friend in the world, the town's outcast, Huckleberry Finn. When Huck comments that painting the fence looks like fun, Tom gets an idea. Moments later, Tom tricks his schoolmates into painting the fence for him... and paying for the privilege ("Smart Like That")!

That night, Tom and Huck go on an adventure and visit the local graveyard. There, hidden behind a gravestone, they see the troublemaking Ol’ Man Joe and have a fight with Doc Robinson, the local doctor ("Hands All Clean"). Before long, Joe murders Doc Robinson before their very eyes! The boys run off and swear in blood to keep mum forever about the bloody deed ("The Vow"). Meanwhile, Ol’ Man Joe arranges to have a local vagrant, Muff Potter, blamed for the murder.

On the way to school the next day, Tom tries to convince Huck to learn to read, but Huck is afraid. A few minutes later, Huck saves kindly old Widow Douglas from the advances of the town drunk. In gratitude, she offers to teach Huck how to read; in fact, she offers him her home as a place to live. Huck promises that he will think about it.

In school that day, Tom saves Becky from getting into trouble. Moments later, they declare their undying love for each other ("To Hear You Say My Name").

A few days later, Muff Potter is arrested for murder. Muff doesn't realize that Ol’ Man Joe has framed him and he pleads with Joe to save him from hanging. Joe says that he'll help, provided that Muff gives him a map that Muff has found – a map leading to that legendary treasure, Murrell's Gold.

As Muff is taken to jail, Tom faces a terrible choice: Should he tell the truth about the murder and save Muff Potter, thereby incurring the wrath of Ol’ Man Joe? Or should he keep his vow to Huck and let Muff hang?

At Muff Potter's trial, Tom takes the stand. He tells the truth and swears that Ol’ Man Joe committed the murder. Ol’ Man Joe springs from his seat and screams "You are dead, boy!" He throws a knife at Tom, then races from the courtroom amid a hale of gunfire.

A few weeks later, Huck comes to warn Tom that Ol’ Man Joe has returned to town and that he needs to be "prepared" for him, for he is the one that Joe wants to kill.

The next morning, after weeks of secret tutoring bythe  Widow Douglas, Huck at last learns how to read. He and the Widow celebrate with a song of joy ("I Can Read!").

This is the day of the annual town picnic, and the festivities begin with the exploration of McDougal's Cave, a cavern of frightening size and darkness.

Now, however, a tragedy occurs. Tom and Becky get lost in the cave. Aunt Polly and Judge Thatcher are frantic, and they  begin searching for the two children, as the rest of the town helps.

Underground, Tom and Becky desperately try to find a way out of the cave. Tom assures Becky that they'll succeed ("Light"). When Becky is alone for a moment, Ol’ Man Joe springs from a passage and grabs her, demanding to know where Tom is. Suddenly, Tom jumps out from behind a rock, and a moment later, Huck shows up. With great courage, the three friends battle Ol’ Man Joe and defeat him.

Although badly shaken, the children find Murrell's Gold, a vast treasure of gold coins. Moments later, they see a ray of daylight shining through a crack in the wall. Exhausted, they crawl out of the cave, safe at last.

That same day, the people of St. Petersburg are holding a funeral service for the lost children. During the service, Tom, Huck and Becky limp into town. They peek into the church... and realize that they're watching their own funeral!

When the children are discovered, the town goes wild with happiness. Aunt Polly is overjoyed to have Tom back. Sid is not.

In the final moments of the play, Huck reveals to Tom that he's learned how to read, and the two friends run off to celebrate with the rest of the town ("Finale").

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Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Children
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Tom Sawyer
Our story's title character. A boy on the verge of manhood full of mischief and hope, suffering greatly from the pangs of growing up. He very likable, intelligent, intuitive and carefree.
Gender: male
Age: 12 to 14
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Huckleberry Finn
Tom's best friend. He is stubborn, loyal, proud, and good-natured. Lives a life of free will and enjoys it that way.
Gender: male
Age: 12 to 15
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: C3
Sidney Sawyer
Tom's half-brother and an insufferable goody-goody who dislikes Tom and does everything he can to get him into trouble.
Gender: male
Age: 10 to 13
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: E4
Ben Rogers
The ringleader of Tom's classmates. He is not as mischievous as Tom, but still a typical boy on the verge of manhood. Slightly jealous of Tom in an idolizing manner. (Optional doubling with SYDNEY SAWYER).
Gender: male
Age: 12 to 15
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Joe Harper
A school friend of Tom. (Optional doubling with SHERIFF).
Gender: male
Age: 12 to 14
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Lyle Peters
A school friend of Tom. (Optional doubling with MUFF POTTER).
Gender: male
Age: 12 to 14
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Becky Thatcher
An utterly beautiful woman. Bright, smart, youthful, and funny. She is the new girl in town and falls for Tom instantly.
Gender: female
Age: 12 to 15
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Judge Thatcher
Becky's father. A widower trying to raise a girl as best he can. He is handsome and craggy. (Optional doubling with DOC ROBINSON and/or PAP).
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Lemuel Dobbins
The schoolmaster and village demagogue. Prides himself on being strict but has a soft, poetic side as well. (Optional doubling with JOSHUA SPRAGUE).
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 45
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Joshua Sprague
Eagle-eyed and severe. He is the village Reverend. Stately and poised preaching with a 'fire and brimstone' mindset, full of passion and verve. (Optional doubling with LEMUEL DOBBINS).
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Ol' Man Joe

A proud, bitter, downtrodden man whose sharp face and hollow cheeks makes him look like death himself. Half Native American and half white, he has been treated with contempt his whole life. He now has a heart as black as wood smoke.

The name “Injun Joe” is from the Mark Twain novel this musical is based on. Because of the derogatory nature of the word "Injun", the authors have approved of the option to change the character’s name to “Ol’ Man Joe”.

Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: D3
Muff Potter
A vagrant and derelict drunk. Not a bad man, he just doesn't have the backbone to say no when others lead him astray. (Optional doubling with LYLE PETERS).
Gender: male
Age: 60 to 70
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: D3
Doc Robinson
A pompous, unpleasant man with a chip on his shoulder. He is bossy, thieving, and impatient. An all around "bad guy." (Optional doubling with JUDGE THATCHER and/or PAP).
Gender: male
Age: 45 to 55
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: E3
The town drunk and Huck's father. (Optional doubling with JUDGE THATCHER and/or DOC ROBINSON).
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Aunt Polly
Tom's Aunt. She tries to discipline and keep him in line but is at her wit's end. Ever so patient, she loves both Tom and Sid and does her best to single-handedly take care of them both.
Gender: female
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: E3
Widow Douglas
A pretty, older woman of some wealth. Kind-hearted and giving, she offers Huck a home with a bed and cooked meals.
Gender: female
Age: 60 to 70
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: A3
The town's law enforcement. (Optional doubling with JOE HARPER).
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
The storyteller of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Pushes the action of the story along. (It is possible to split the Narrator's lines up amongst the other cast members, but it is encouraged to use four females in your cast to balance the vocal sound of the group numbers.)
Gender: female
Various members of the cast in the group numbers. TOWNSPEOPLE, etc.
Full Song List
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Ain't Life Fine
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Here's My Plan
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Smart Like That
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Hands All Clean (Part 1)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Old Hundred
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: To Hear You Say My Name
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Murrell's Gold
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: I Can Read
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Light
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer TYA: Finale (Part 1)

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.

Critical Reaction

"A joyous, wholesome, literate, and wonderfully realized production guaranteed to dazzle and enchant children and adults alike. Ken Ludwig has provided a theatrically lucid and intelligent adaptation of Twain's masterpiece, a book many consider the Great American Novel, without sacrificing credibility to dramatic structure or moral honesty to histrionic preachiness. Don Schlitz has provided music and lyrics so firmly grounded in the American rural experience as to seem songs you learned in childhood, and are here hearing again after being forgotten for too many years."
– Talkin' Broadway

"Mr. Ludwig's book does a nifty job of condensing the novel, maintaining its episodic character but cleverly joining elements from different scenes to keep the narrative bobbing along. ...Mr. Schlitz, a Grammy-winning composer of country songs (including "The Gambler"), has written a handful of winning tunes."
– The New York Times

"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer [is] fast-moving and bright.... [It] overflows with innocence and affection. ...Such a well-packaged work, and such good fun."
– The Washington Post

"There are a few strong songs admirably performed by the talented adults.... The book by Ken Ludwig hits the iconic moments of Twain's famous novel.... There are worthy elements here."
– TheaterMania

"Tom Sawyer had charm, melody, and a genuine professional polish. ...The score by country songwriter Don Schlitz was a tuneful and polished professional effort. ...Schlitz's first-ever Broadway effort blended easily with Ken Ludwig's often amusing book, which played some interesting variations on the original story."



Based on the novel by Mark Twain


You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
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"You agree to bill the Play and the Authors in all programs, houseboards, displays and in all advertising and all paid publicity, in the following manner: Specifically, you must bill the Play and the Authors as follows:
The Adventures of
Based on the Novel by Mark Twain
Conceived and Written by 
Music and Lyrics by
Originally Produced on Broadway by
James M. Nederlander, James L. Nederlander, and Watt/Dobie Productions
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