Sailors from Maine State Music Theatre’s “Treasure Island,” on stage through July 13 in Brunswick. Photo courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre

BRUNSWICK — Growing up, Curt Dale Clark had no choice but to read “Treasure Island,” the tale of pirates, high-seas adventure and the search for gold. It was required reading in school.

But he didn’t dread the assignment. “It was one of those books, when I started reading, I couldn’t stop,” said Clark, the artistic director of Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. For a kid growing up on a farm in Pecatonica, Illinois, “Treasure Island” represented excitement and escapism, and the story “stuck with me my entire life,” he said.

This week, Clark and the creative team at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick turn Stevenson’s story of adventure into a new, original musical. Clark, the theater’s artistic director, wrote the words and music with his partner, Marc Robin. The musical debuted in the fall at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where Robin works as executive artistic producer.

It runs through July 13 at Maine State.

Aaron Ramey as Long John Silver and Michael Nigro as Jim Hawkins star in “Treasure Island” at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. Photo courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre

Written by Robert Louis Stevenson and published in the 1880s, “Treasure Island” became a coming-of-age novel for generations of would-be adventurers hoping they might see a little of themselves reflected in the heroism and bravery of the story’s narrator, Jim Hawkins, who leaves home as an orphan to hunt for treasure on a ship that includes pirate ringleader Long John Silver. Stevenson’s novel became the template for adventure, with its hidden treasure and maps marked with an “X.”

The Maine State musical stays true to Stevenson’s tale. Young Jim Hawkins is alone in the world, orphaned as boy. But he inherits a map that shows the location of treasure, and the adventure begins. With a cast of 26, it stars New York actors Michael Nigro as Hawkins and Aaron Ramey as Long John Silver. Nigro appeared in “The Sound of Music” on NBC, and Ramey’s Broadway credits include “The Visit,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and many more.

Clark and Robin have written the musical as a story of adventure, redemption and the search for the moral truth in the gray area between good and evil, with Hawkins facing a difficult decision at the end of the play about the fate of the marauders. It’s exciting, fast-paced and fun, Clark said.

It’s also a big commitment for Maine State Music Theatre. “Treasure Island” is a new musical without a track record of familiar songs, which makes it risky to stage. And because Maine State had a limited 12-week season with room for only four shows, Clark can’t risk a dud. He has to fill seats.

But it’s a familiar story, and one that has captured imaginations for well over a century. To help build excitement about the musical, Maine State Music Theatre purchased copies of the book for libraries in the midcoast this spring, and encouraged kids and adults to read the story.


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