When I first heard that the Arkansas Repertory Theatre would have an original production of the classic tale "Treasure Island," I was ecstatic.
Several questions ran through my mind: How could this amazing story be captured on stage? Would the plot somewhat differ from the original story? How authentic could the characters really be? And really, what kind of music would carry the production?
Of course, I knew that if any theater could pull it off, The Rep could.
And boy, was I right!
After seeing the world premiere of "Treasure Island: A New Musical" last Friday, all of my little doubts were cast away. Not only did the production encapsulate the story on just about every level, the tale stayed true to coming-of-age classic by Robert Louis Stevenson while adding a fresh take, and the extremely talented cast truly catapulted the play to new heights, not to mention, the dramatic score kept the production going strong with every twist and turn.
"Treasure Island: A New Musical," which opened last week, is directed and choreographed by Brett Smock and tells the story of young Jim Hawkins (Logan Rowland) -- a boy looking for adventure in his life who was enticed by the wild world of Captain Billy Bones (Christopher Carl). His wish is soon granted as members of the infamous Captain Flint crew pursue Billy and his hidden treasure map.
When Billy dies in a struggle for the map, Jim escapes with his life and the captain's prize possession. With a strong crew in place led by very gritty, very strong-willed peg-leg Long John Silver (Richard B. Watson), and with Jim under the protection of Dr. David Livesey (David Hess), Squire John Trelawney (Michael Thomas Holmes) and a stoic ship’s captain, Captain Alexander Smollett (Christopher Carl), they set sail in search of their fortunes. But as greed escalates on the months-long journey, mutiny erupts and loyalties are forever broken.
At the beginning of Act One, the audience is introduced to the entire company -- pirates and all-- belting their powerful voices on the elaborate one-piece wooden set that is highlighted with several staircases and colorful sails. What's amazing is the set encompasses the entire stage and just about every inch is utilized during the course of the play.
It's the 1700s in England and what we see is the close-knit relationship between Jim and his protective mother Mary Hawkins (Kristy Cates), who live at the Admiral Benbow Inn. It's there where the young boy meets Billy and discovers his treasure map -- a highly "treasured" item among many.
From the beginning, pretty intense action heats up the stage as the crew fights for that special piece of paper. And once Billy passes away and the map comes into Livesey's and Trelawney's possession, that's where the journey really begins.
The audience becomes immersed in this pirate culture where you feel like you're on deck as the crew is rigging the sails and tossing barrels and bales about. This especially rings true during the big thunderstorm where flickering lights and intense music indundate the theater while the crew sings in harmony -- one of my favorite scenes of the night.
What really jumps out at you are the amazing costumes -- authentic down-and-dirty pirate garb that was ripped, tattered and torn, mismatched, patched up and everything in between. Each member of the hardscrabble tattooed crew looked like they each had spent months working day-in and day-out, keeping the Hispaniola ship afloat.
And you can't miss the passionate performances by the precocious lead Jim, who the audience sees transform throughout the production from a young boy thirsting for adventure to an assertive and determined seaman who isn't afraid to confront his troubles, particularly when his loyalty is tested by Silver. At one point, he tells a somewhat tortured seaman under the direction of Silver "the gates of heaven won't be open if you live like a dog" after the captain tells him to wear a dog collar.
Silver, himself, is also a standout who brings a colorful and authentic character to the stage with his hearty guffaws and towering rage toward the end of the story. The one-legged captain is a force to be reckoned with.
Another strong performance comes from a character in the play who brought a heavy dose of laughter and a burst of energy to the stage as the "island creature" -- Ben Gunn, played by film actor Patrick Richwood, someone who has been featured in major flicks like "The Princess Diaries," "Pretty Woman" and "Armageddon." His off-the-wall persona in the "Treasure Island" character provides much comic relief and adds a different dimension to the story.
As for the delightful score from musical director Corinne Aquilina -- the beautiful woodwind-laden music carries the production from beginning to end, showcasing the wide range of emotions portrayed by the entire cast. From those dark times experienced by Jim to those crucial moments in the production when sword and gun fights break out, it is all captured in the score. And you could count on every voice on stage to be as strong as the next -- there was no weak link in the chain.
Bottom line: This treasure of a play shows the real coming-of-age process with the lead, overcoming hardship after hardship and in the end, maturing to someone who is adult in character. The only difference is in "Treasure Island: A New Musical," is it's all done in the most magnificent of ways.
There's still time to see the show-- it will be running until March 31.
And don't miss Colonial Wine and Spirits' "Party Like a Pirate" special event from 6 - 7 p.m. Thurday, March 28, where patrons will be able to sample light bites, specialty rums and rum drinks in Foster’s prepared by local mixologist Joel DiPippa all before catching the "Treasure Island: A New Musical" at 7 p.m in special VIP seats in the First Mezzanine. Patrons be 21 or older to attend. Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 for these exclusive tickets!
Purchase tickets for the remaining shows online here, call (501) 378-0405 or visit the box office, 601 Main St., Little Rock.
Get a preview here:
Spring is almost here and that means food trucks will be back doing what they do best -- serving up delicious grub to the masses.
Tomorrow (March 14), food trucks will convene at The Bernice Garden, 1401 S. Main St., for Food Truck Thursdays.
From 5 - 8 p.m., several food truck vendors will debut the 2013 season. Vendors include The Food Truck, The Southern Gourmasian, Green Cuisine, Clyde & Kiddo's, Excaliburger, Pizzeria Santa Lucia and The Sugar Shack Sweets & Treats.
Loblolly Creamery in The Green Corner Store will also be open serving gourmet ice cream.
The public should bring their own plate or bowl. There will be washing facilities for you to rinse off your used tableware to take back home.
For more information, click here. See what Liz Sanders of The Bernice Garden in SoMa has to say about the return of the trucks on THV today below.
There's something else for the kids to enjoy at the Little Rock Zoo -- a new playground.
The Little Rock Zoo recently debuted its new Jambo Gym Playground at Café Africa.
The project was started by volunteers who approached the Zoo about building a new playground suitable for children ages 5-12. Volunteers raised the funds to build the playground from private donations, in addition to funds from General Improvement Funds from the State of Arkansas, the One-Cent City Sales Tax passed in September of 2011, and from the Arkansas Zoological Foundation.
The new playground features equipment accessible for disabled children.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with last admissions at 4 p.m. Call (501) 666-2406 for more information.
The Promenade at Chenal has partnered with its complete line up of award-winning restaurants to announce Kids Eat FREE Mondays. Beginning in March, kids can choose from six unique restaurants for family night out, savoring a different dish each Monday.
The Promenade at Chenal is one of the first lifestyle shopping centers to launch a center-wide, multi-restaurant Kids Eat Free program in Arkansas.
Below is a list of the great dining options customers will find all in one place -- The Promenade at Chenal.
For a look at each restaurant's kids menu visit, click here.
The program lasts from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. every Monday from the lunch and dinner kid's menu only. Kids must be 12 and under with paid adult (limit 1 kids meal per each adult entrée ordered). Drinks are not included and it's not valid with any other discount or offer.
For more information about the new program, click here.
Conway's Silver Moon Cinema is back again this year with its community-spirited, big-screen celebration of movies both old and new.
The Conway Parks and Recreation program recently announced its 2013 schedule and it sounds fun!
Starting in April, the public is invited to bring a lawn chair, blanket, beanbag chair (whatever suits you), load up the kids and enjoy a night out under the stars for free -- almost. A $1 donation to a local charity gets you a spot in the street to view the movie.
Here is the 2013 movie lineup:
Madagascar 3 -- April 13 at Village at Hendrix, 1600 Washington Ave.
Dark Knight Rises -- May 17 at Village at Hendrix
Field of Dreams -- June 14 at Field 5 of Conway Station Park, S. Center St. and Robins St.
Hotel Transylvania -- Oct. 26 at Village at Hendrix
Hunger Games -- 7:30 p.m., Nov. 15 at Conway Expo Center, 2501 E. Oaks St.
Concessions also benefit the charity -- $2 for popcorn and a drink, plus candy and other foods.
This weekend, get off the couch and enjoy the great outdoors.
One thing you can do is go hiking on one of the many trails scattered across central Arkansas. We've listed four fun and scenic trails you might not think about:
For more trail options around central Arkansas, click here.
The famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is rolling through central Arkansas all this weekend.
The Oscar Mayer Hotdogger team visits many cities on its tour and this weekend, they are bringing the 76-year-old big dog to Little Rock and North Little Rock, with its first stop today (March 8) at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in south Little Rock.
Several visits are scheduled until Sunday (March 10).
At each stop, there will be some fun activities lined up, and of course, the famous Oscar Mayer Wiener Whistles will be on hand. The public will also be able to get a special look into the 27-foot-long Wienermobile.
Sal-Emy and Abe "the Ham" are two of 12 Hotdoggers currently traveling the hot dog highways of America. The small group was chosen from more than 1,200 applicants for one-year opportunity with Oscar Mayer to drive the fleet of six Wienermobile vehicles.
Here is where you can get a behind-the-bun sneak peek of the Wienermobile this weekend:
Admission is free. Get more information about the Wienermobile here.
Have a long day at work and cooking dinner when you get home is not an option?
Starting last week, Your Mama's Good Food, 215 Center St., Little Rock, began a new dinner take-out service for those on the go.
Customers can expect to see their favorites on the menu, plus a few more. Check out the dinner menu on its website to see what's available. Some of the menu's current entree items include meatloaf, chicken stew, spaghetti and meatballs, plus many more delicious comfort foods, in addition to a variety of sides like mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots, and sweet desserts such as pecan pie, key lime pie, banana pudding and bread pudding. Talk about delicious!
Dinner packs come with one entree, one side and a choice of bread (roll or cornbread). Orders are in packs of 2 ($16.95) or 4 ($30). Salad and desserts can be added on.
All you have to do is order your entree(s) by 3 p.m. on the day of and pick it up between 4 and 6 p.m. that evening.
Call John at (501) 372-1811 to place an order or to get more information about the service.