Treasure Island – the musical panto

‘Treasure Island – a musical panto’ was a most enjoyable show for children of all ages, written by the Philadelphian team of Kathryn Peterson (playwright and lyrics) and Michael Ogborn (music). This delightful, lively, and amusing show is based – very loosely – on the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson, and brought to the stage by the Murdoch Theatre Company, produced by Chelsea Johnson, Luke Gratton and Aaron Hamilton, with mentoring by Tim Brain and John King.

This 95-minute pantomime for ‘Christmas in July’, was presented at the Nexus Theatre within the grounds of Murdoch University, for four days up to Saturday 7th July.

The scene: 1850 off the west coast of Australia.

The set: Considering the short season, Ye Olde Blowharde galleon’s bridge with full sail above, was magnificent. The bow reached out into the auditorium – up to the third row, allowing intimate audience participation. Excellent work by set designer James Norton, and his assistant designers Suzie Spencer and Elizabeth Hamilton – the team also built the scenery. The vivid and inventive graphic design was by Stephanie Beckham.

Jordan Baynes’ adventurous sound design was operated by Harsh Parmar.

The show was smoothly stage managed by Rhiannon Moon and her assistant Shannen Moulton.

       Three scruffy pirates, Ezekial Machete Scabs (Evie MacPherson), Tinnitus Tom the Terrible (Sean Wcislo), and Israel Chopped Hand (Maggie Cope-Thomas) with his steel hook for a hand, are loading their galleon. They have been hired by Captain Smilenot (Zenna Newman-Santos) to take some people over the Seven Seas in search of Billy Bones riches.

       The ship’s hopeful treasure-seeking voyageurs include young Jamie Hawkins (Ainsley Marr – excellent) and his wise friend Doctor Livesee (Julia Parks). The Captain warns them that no women or bananas will be allowed on board, as they always bring bad luck; but the Captain does not know that the glamorous and man hungry mother of Hawkins (Max Conroy – a highlight) is already a stowaway on the ship. When the rich and highly athletic, Squire Treelawnee (Maximiliano Laffout) comes aboard, he has with him his beautiful daughter, Evelyn Treelawnee (Rosalie Schneider).

       After financial deal with the Captain, Evelyn is allowed to stay. There are two treasure maps, but who has the real one? With the ship’s cook, Long John Silver (Vasco Jansen), his young helper Boy Scout Devil Dan (Phoebe Dingli) and Polly, the rainbow coloured Parrot (Injeong Hwang) all wanting the treasure, the voyageurs must be on their guard.

        The ship finds the Treasure Island and are greeted on the shore by a friendly, dusky maiden in a grass skirt, Mama Kura (Melissa Munoz Escobar – beautiful voice).

         Will she help them find the treasure? Or will the greedy pirates have a terrible fate for our friends?

Director Nic Doig and his assistant Harsh Parmar have completely captured the fun of the pantomime genre. The show had audience participation, led by the Doctor and Jamie for the goodies, with scar faced Long John inciting the ‘boos’. There were hijinks, with a bucket of water being thrown over the poor Captain. At the performance I saw, one kid was particularly vocal; the cast tried to let him be involved, but as the lad became more excited, they soon learned that he was best ignored. A lesson well learnt.

The colourful sets and smart costumes (costume designer, Cassie Power), gruesome makeup (design Natasha Harris), catchy music (musical director Stephanie Beckham, with Pianist James Jury), a sword fight and plenty more action. What else could an audience ask for?

The children and adults all loved the show – except one miserable-faced man, who obviously had never been to a panto before, who, on being approached by the Doctor, ‘froze’! He did not come back after the interval.

Fabulous fun for all ages, performed by a star cast. Packed with energy and clever pantomime skills.