Theater review

‘Treasure Island’ will shiver your timbers with delight

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 12:30pm

Avast me hearties and ye shall hear
A tale of buried treasure
T’will make you a-feared …

A tale of rum-guzzlin pirates
Quick with a cutlass, ready to fight,
Of a mutinous mind
Tis ye they will smite!

Skeleton Island’s where ye be bound,
With the boy Jim Hawkins, a Doc, the captain and Squire
A pirate crew and Long John Silver too
Where be the gold? Where be the map? Aye, now there be the ire …

They will have you from the moment the curtain goes up. MSMT’s East Coast premier of “Treasure Island” co-written by Curt Dale Clark and Marc Robin, is pure original gold – and not the kind a pirate favors – with the finest all-male cast anywhere, period.

It’s based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, but with a few liberties taken. For example, Clark and Robin’s Long John Silver is far less dastardly than the original, in fact, the character is torn between wanting to take young James Hawkins under his wing to just ending the boy.

It all starts when a pirate stumbles into the Admiral Benbow Inn that James and his mother own – the lad’s dad very recently deceased. James loved hearing his father’s stories about his adventures at sea and of visiting new lands. James looked forward to having such adventures with his dad. Now, he wonders if he’ll ever experience anything exciting. Little does James know, but there’s a pirate right under the Inn roof and his name be Billy Bones. And he has a treasure map. A map that means more than gold to James – it means he has a shot at adventure.

After a fierce fight between Billy Bones and Blind Pew – both pirates who’d sailed with Long John Silver – over the treasure map, Billy is injured and Blind Pew runs off. Before Billy dies, he gives James the treasure map from his wooden chest and warns James not to tell anyone he has it. Well … how’s a boy supposed to have adventure if he doesn’t tell someone about it, eh?

Audiences will be entranced by the sets – from Inn to the deck of the Hispaniola – to Skeleton island and the special effects are great fun. Be prepared for fog, sudden gunfire and … hmmm, something else!

The dynamic troupe of performers is led by Michael William Nigro, just 20 years old, with a voice that makes you sit up and take notice – and then feel like weeping – really. It’s that gorgeous a voice; James Patterson is Dr David Livesey, and quite spry and adroit at swordplay is this doc; Michael Iannucci is that dandy Squire John Trelawney – and he is, quite simply, perfection.

The cast of pirates are many, beginning with “Mr. Silver” Aaron Ramey – who moves about with his crutch quite well (I wonder how much cushioning he will need as the show run goes on!), and there’s Tom Morgan, played by Brian Krinsky – now Tom is an action sort of scoundrel who thinks the voyage to Skeleton Island is taking longer than it should and if Silver isn’t going to do something about it – Morgan will. Pirate George Merry is a soft spoken, cajoling pirate who never puts up a fuss, but enjoys his rum as much as any pirate.

One of the funniest song scenes is “Joys of Cooking,” during which Long John Silver shows James just why he loves cooking so much … he whips, cuts, beats, slices, carves and … well, you get the idea – the meat, veg, fruit and whatever else is on board. It still makes me smile writing this.

The music is so very perfect for the show – but, let’s face it: when you’ve got the uber talented team of Curt Dale Clark and Marc Robin writing the script and lyrics, with direction by Mark Martino, Robin writing the music; and an excellent orchestra conducted by pianist Ray Fellman … you just can’t go wrong. You’ll find yourself uttering a few blimeys and blow me downs throughout the two and a half hour program – a program that flies!

As outstanding as all of the performances are by the lead characters, my favorite was the marooned-believed-to-be-dead pirate Ben Gunn portrayed brilliantly by James Michael Reilly. After jumping overboard, once Tom Morgan and the pirates mutinied successfully, James ends up on Skeleton Island . It was in sight before he jumped. As he looks around curiously he hears an unusual bird call. Again and again … why, turns out it’s no bird but Ben Gunn – left marooned on the island by none other than Long John Silver some seven years before. And after all these years, the first thing he asks James for is some cheese. He’s been eating berries, weeds and nuts too long. There’s more, but Gunn shares his requests in the song “Do You Happen To Have?”

Speaking of which, do you happen to have tickets yet?

“Treasure Island.” Maine State Music Theater. Find it on ye map, or GPS it. Just get there before the show run ends on July 13. Call the box office (725-8769), and you’ll be quick about it … if ye know what’s good fer ye!