A classic tale of pirates and adventure comes to Happy Valley, as Nittany Theatre at the Barn presents “Treasure Island” starting Tuesday in Boalsburg.
Directed by Broadway’s Alex Santoriello, “Treasure Island” is an original work that’s inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic book of the same name.
The show features a hand-built and designed 27-foot pirate ship (the largest set ever built at The Barn), set into a picture-book frame with skill and style by local scenic designer William Snyder.
“The aim is to breathe life into this classic tale by immersing the audience into the show, as if telling a tale from a book,” Santoriello said. “And in The Barn’s intimate setting, audiences will be amazed by the result.”
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“Treasure Island” introduces the fascinating, exciting, dangerous world of pirates brought to life by such enduring characters as Long John Silver, Ben Gunn, Jim Hawkins, Billy Bones and Captain Flint. “Treasure Island” is one of the first “coming of age” tales, as told through the young, innocent eyes of Jim Hawkins.
Nittany Theatre at the Barn’s adaptation of Stevenson’s work, while faithful to the familiar tale of adventuring pirates, places a focus on how the lust for gold infests all the characters of the show. The production introduces timely and classic music of the period to enhance the storytelling with exciting and touching tunes.
Hannah Richardson plays Jane Hawkins, a handmaiden with a great longing for adventure.
“I personally love Jane because she’s so full of life that she can make anyone smile by virtue of her spirited indifference to rules,” Richardson said. “One of the biggest differences in our adaptation of ‘Treasure Island’ is that Jim Hawkins is a Jane — the difference in sex creating a very different dynamic within the story. I think it certainly adds a lot of social commentary to feature this young girl living in a classic, English-conservative society who, despite the many barriers she faces, charges ahead without hesitation.”
To Richardson, Jane’s story is important because of how relevant it is in today’s society.
“I want all kids to know that they can change the world, no matter their age, sex or address,” she said.
Captain Smollett, played by Frank Wilson, is a seasoned leader and accomplished seaman who is hired under the pretense of commanding a pleasure cruise to deliver a bride to her rich and powerful husband. Soon after embarking, he discovers the truth, as well as some significant surprises and challenges, including a quest for buried treasure, a crew of cutthroat pirates led by the notorious Long John Silver, a young girl disguised as cabin boy, Jim Hawkins, and much more.
“Leadership and character are tested, as Smollett and Silver go toe to toe at every turn,” Wilson said. “The resolution, and piles of treasure, are always in the balance.”
For the cast of “Treasure Island,” the preparation has been extensive — from learning about the time period, to getting familiar with the pirate jargon, to learning a British accent.
“Many of the basic components of even getting the lines out have been challenging for us,” Richardson said. “Luckily however, the script is so fabulous, that once we’re onstage, everything just starts working.”
Nittany Theatre at the Barn Producing and Artistic Director David Saxe Saxe has created a compelling and comic adaptation of the original novel, penned by Stevenson. For Wilson and the cast, it’s especially interesting to work on an original script.
“For performers and audience, it is entirely new, with no prior production to use as comparison or example,” he said. “It’s a fresh pallet for artist and observer, and this is unique, especially for a community venue.”
When Santoriello was offered the opportunity to stage “Treasure Island” at The Barn, he jumped at it, as he loved the story and the characters. He said he has also been impressed by the creativity of The Barn’s technical staff, producers and actors.
“Having worked through the beginnings for Broadway’s ‘Les Miserables’ from workshop to Broadway, I find the creative work of crafting a show to be the most thrilling in show business — and this ‘Treasure Island’ is no exception,” he said. “Bringing the humanity of this story as told through its characters is the message to audiences. This tale of adventure is part of the human condition; and bringing it to life is our goal.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Nittany Theatre at the Barn’s “Treasure Island”
- When: Tuesday-July 8
- Where: Nittany Theatre at the Barn, Boalsburg Estate Drive, Boalsburg
- Info: nittanytheatre.org