Maine State Music Theatre is diving headlong into its summer season with an all-new musical rendition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” co-written by artistic director Curt Dale Clark.

The Pickard Theater sizzled with excitement on opening night Thursday as the audience became swept up by an epic story and sweeping score that stirred the imagination and captivated the soul. It was the East Coast premiere and a grand journey 20 years in the making.

“Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure” is a creative collaboration between Clark and Marc Robin, who serves as the executive artistic producer at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The musical was conceived as a children’s show some 20 years ago and has since matured into a spellbinding production that has the power to mesmerize theatergoers of all ages. It debuted to rave reviews at the Fulton last September and comes to Maine further trimmed and polished.

Stevenson’s classic tale of high seas adventure vibrantly springs to life as if the characters leapt from the pages of the beloved novel onto the Pickard stage. With orchestration by David Siegel – under the musical direction of Ray Fellman and Ben McNaboe – buoying the story, the musical is moving, fun and exciting. Lush Broadway-quality sets by Robert Andrew Kovach, splendid costuming by Ryan Moller and high-end lighting and sound by Paul Black and Patrick LaChance give the production a larger-than-life quality akin to watching a movie.

Casting director Bob Cline has assembled a fabulous cast, with many reprising their roles from the Fulton Theatre run. Twenty-year-old Michael William Nigro, who starred as Friedrich in NBC’s “Sound of Music Live,” returns as Jim Hawkins. Audiences couldn’t ask for a better choice to step into the adventurous shoes of the story’s young protagonist. The highly expressive actor brings a sense of wonder to the role that radiates with every look, gesture and splendidly sung song. His surprisingly rich vocals defy his age and small stature on beautifully rendered songs such as “Miracles” and “Dreams,” punctuating the play’s touching coming-of-age storyline.

Broadway star Aaron Ramey joins the cast as the morally ambiguous villain, Long John Silver. The rugged 6-foot-2 baritone is a delight as the one-legged pirate, offering up a wonderfully quirky sense of humor and stunning vocals.  He’s pure fun on the entertaining “Joys of Cooking” and commands attention with his full-bodied, buttery-smooth vocals on the powerful “Someday.”

Nigro and Ramey were in perfect harmony on the duet reprisals of “Someday” and “Miracles” in the final scene.

The large 26-member cast is filled with sumptuous voices and colorful characters that amuse and enthrall. James Patterson and Michael Iannucci add comic relief as Dr. David Livesey and Squire John Trelawney. They deliver the dialogue with wit and flair and are a pure joy on songs such as “Treasure Island” with Nigro and “The Stockade.”

David Girolmo also shines as Captain Smollett,” vocally sparing with Ramey’s Silver on “Silver’s Embassy,” and James Michael Reilly is unforgettable as the nimble parrot-like Ben Gunn.

Of course, “Treasure Island” wouldn’t be the same without a memorable crew of pirates to keep things exciting and adventurous and this cast has them in spades, making it impossible to give them all their due. Standouts include Jason Simon as George Merry, Danny Rothman as Billy Bones and Israel Hands, Brian Krinsky as the mutinous Tom Morgan, Tyler Johnson-Campion as Abraham Gray, Cameron Mullin as Job Anderson and JC McCann as Rufus Davis.

“Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure” is a masterfully written musical by Clark and Robin, directed by Mark Martino, that is equal parts fun and awe-inspiring. The score is gorgeous, the cast is a treasure, and the play is a moving coming-of-age story that captures the imagination. Although the production will likely undergo additional tweaks as it continues on its grand adventure, it already has the production value and scope of beloved classics such as “Les Miserables.” Maine State Music Theatre has struck gold with this one.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle


Comments are not available on this story.