'Treasure Island' review: Musical gold in Port Jeff
As Jim and Long John say, the world is made up of "those who dream and those who dare."
A brash Theatre Three troupe demonstrates that dreams may be worth the dare. "Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure" makes an auspicious world premiere, implanting infectious tunes that hum in our heads as we spill out onto Main Street -- not Broadway.
Composer Gary William Friedman, who attended Saturday's debut, and lyricist Will Holt started work on "Treasure Island" following their 1970 Tony-nominated "The Me Nobody Knows" -- recruiting librettist Sherman Yellen, whose "The Rothschilds" played across the street. Together, they've pared Robert Louis Stevenson's novel into a lean, robust musical. In the first serious literary treatment of pirates, Stevenson wove a confluence of courage and greed into a boy's rite of passage. Moral ambivalence is embodied in Long John Silver, whose quest for buried treasure is as ruthless as the weapon that robbed him of his leg. As sung by Steve McCoy, "Another Side of Silver" captures Long John's conundrum, indeed that of all humanity: "We're none of us one thing or another."
McCoy's Long John is both vulnerable and impenetrable. His intimidating voice covers what he fears most -- that kindness will be exploited by fellow plunderers. Treating young Jim as the son he'll never have is part con to secure a map the boy liberated from Billy Bones (Odell Cureton), who died in hiding at the inn of Jim's mother (Phyllis March, whose voice doubles as Long John's salty parrot). Yet Long John's affection may be genuine. Jim, earnestly played by charismatic Hans Paul Hendrickson, finds himself torn by emotional loyalty to Silver and fealty to the ship's captain (John Hudson) and a fatuous squire (Frank Russo).
Ellen Michelmore's six-piece orchestra generates a richer sound than its number indicates, amplifying three swaggering songs: "Adventure," "In This Great Big World" and the irresistible "Pieces of Eight," choreographed by Sari Feldman (sword-fight choreography, Heath Cohen). Randall Parsons' spare set transports us from inn to island by way of crow's-nested ship, ominously lit by Robert Henderson Jr., while Kristy Leigh Hall's costumes swash many a buckle.
Can a pirate musical make it on Broadway? "Pirates of the Caribbean's" film franchise proves there's an audience for family-friendly high-seas adventure. "Treasure Island," crisply directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, asserts that the time for this timeless title is now.
WHAT "Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure"
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 27, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson
TICKETS $15-$30; theatrethree.com, 631-928-9100