Yo ho ho, and a whole lot of fun: The Ghosts of Treasure Island
I like to think of myself as a pretty discriminating and experienced pirate aficionado. Growing up with two older brothers and a dad who were pretty much entirely obsessed with the swashbuckling seamen, I was watching The Crimson Pirate at age six, daydreamed over N.C. Wyeth's illustrated edition of Stevenson's Treasure Island, and every summer took part in an on-going saga of Playmobile pirate antics, which engulfed and even at times threatened to destroy our mom's garden. The Walt Disney World Ride, the recent Jerry Bruckheimer trilogy, you name it, I'm all over it.
Now that you have all that extensive, and clearly essential, background information, it will make sense why, on a gorgeous sunny Saturday in April, I chose to find myself inside Adventure Stage Chicago's Vittum Theater, watching -and thoroughly enjoying- their pirate-rocker musical, The Ghosts of Treasure Island.
While it might not retain all the classic lines and progressions of Robert Louis Stevenson's, well, classic, this musical does something else even better: captivate a whole new generation of pirate lovers (or is it lubbers?). With an interactive Q&A framing the beginning and end of the show, it was clear. Kids loved it. They loved the silly Admiral with his posh, laughable accent, they loved the cunning, up-to-no-good Long John Silver, and they loved young, brave Jim Hawkins.
And through it all -through the sword fighting and the buccaneering and the treasure hunting- was a craftily made "ship" set, the colorful and believable motley crew, and of course, the pirate rock band themselves. While this group of rockers clearly loved howling "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" straight down the throat of the microphone, kids seemed to love shouting it from the audience even more.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all sing alongs—there was plenty of lap-scrambling when things got a bit scary, especially when mutiny officially hit the Hispaniola and things got hairy. But in something I've rarely ever seen in any live performance with kids, no youngsters high-tailed out screaming.
Post curtain call, the cast came out, for introductions, questions, and to hear some truly entertaining questions from the audience ("I know what I think it means, but what does 13 men on a dead man's chest really mean?").The trip of it all was as much in the music and acting, as it was in hearing what the younger audience had to say about all the high seas shenanigans.
So, all in all, if you're looking for a musical with a little whimsy, adventure, spook and rock n'roll, take your pirate-obsessed kid, no matter the weather outside, to this show. Even if your kid isn't a complete pirate freak yet, it's a great place to get them started. At least, that's what I would do (as a pirate freak meself).
1012 N Noble St (between Milwaukee Ave and Augusta Blvd)
Ukrainian Village/West Town, Chicago 773-342-4141
El: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 70
Tickets: $17; kids 14 and under $12. Through May 15.