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Pirate Adventure Treasure Island at Alley Theatre

Treasure Island
Adapted by Ken Ludwig

Theatreport: Houston on Stage
May 19 ~ June 17, 2007

The final production of the Alley Theatre’s 60th anniversary season is the tale of one boy’s adventure on the high seas in the world premiere production of Treasure Island. Adapted by Ken Ludwig from the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Treasure Island will feature the Alley Company of Actors playing multiple roles in this tale of pirates and buried treasure...

Treasure Island is the tale of young Jim Hawkins, the son of an innkeeper in 18th century England, who matches wits with a mob of pirates to obtain a secret treasure. Taking a highly sought-after map in hand, the eager Hawkins sets off on a series of adventures in search of Treasure Island. With heart-pounding sword fights, edge-of-your-seat rescues and cutthroat mutiny on the high seas, Treasure Island is an adventure for the whole family.

Adaptor Ken Ludwig is author of the Alley’s recent world premiere productions of Be My Baby and Leading Ladies, as well as the Broadway hits Lend Me a Tenor and Crazy for You. Treasure Island will feature spectacular designs by a team of theatrical luminaries, including scenic designer Eugene Lee (Broadway’s Wicked), costume designer Constance Hoffman (Alley’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), lighting designer Clifton Taylor (Alley’s Witness for the Prosecution) and sound designer John Gromada (Broadway’s Rabbit Hole and A Streetcar Named Desire).

Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous novel was published in 1883, although it had appeared initially in Young Folks in serial form July 1881-June 1882 under the alternative title of "The Sea-Cook or Treasure Island". Treasure Island introduced the world to the tale of young Jim Hawkins as he sets off in search of notorious pirate Captain Flint’s buried treasure. He is joined on his journey with Squire Trelawney, Doctor Livesey, Captain Smollet and a crew that may not be entirely trustworthy. Along the way they uncover that the ship’s cook is really the pirate Long John Silver and his crewmates are planning a coup again Jim and his friends. What results are high-flying stunts, sword fights, and discovery in the ultimate and original pirate adventure.

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on November 13, 1850. His father and his grandfather were both distinguished lighthouse designers and engineers, as was his great-grandfather. As a child, he was extremely delicate in health and active in mind and listened intently to the Scottish legends told him by his nurse. During this period he read widely and especially enjoyed Shakespeare, Walter Scott, and The Arabian Nights. His parents hoped that he would practice law in London, and Stevenson entered Edinburgh University. But on his graduation the young law student was afflicted with severe lung trouble and was obliged to travel for his health.

When he was 30 he married an old friend Fanny Van de Grift, in San Francisco. Fanny was a widow with a son, Lloyd, with whom Stevenson became great friends. The writer told his stepson stories by the hour. One evening to amuse the boy, he drew an elaborate map and began a tale of pirates, buried treasure, shipwreck and mutiny. When he had finished, Lloyd asked “why don’t you write a good story like that?” And Treasure Island was born. If he had never written anything else, his place in literature was assured by Treasure Island, but this was followed by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and others, including his masterpiece, Kidnapped.

Adaptor Ken Ludwig has authored recent Alley Theatre world premieres, Be My Baby, Leading Ladies, and next season’s The Gershwins’ An American in Paris. Ken Ludwig is an Associate Artist of the Alley and is the author of several Broadway and London hits. Ludwig’s Crazy for You won the Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Helen Hayes Awards as Best Musical of the Year and was broadcast nationwide on PBS Great Performances. His play Lend Me a Tenor won two Tony Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and was nominated for England's prestigious Olivier Comedy of the Year Award. On Broadway, Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo starred Carol Burnett, then Lynn Redgrave and Robert Goulet, and went on to theWest End in London. His adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s Twentieth Century ran on Broadway with Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche in 2004. And his play Shakespeare in Hollywood was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and won the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play of the Year. His latest work includes the completion of a play by Thornton Wilder, at the request of Wilder’s estate; and an adaptation of The Three Musketeers, which was commissioned by England’s Bristol Old Vic. Ludwig’s work has been translated into 16 languages and performed in over 30 countries around the world.

The cast of Treasure Island includes Alley Theatre Company Actors Jeffrey Bean as Captain Smollet/Black Dog; James Belcher as Squire Trelawney/Job O’Brien; James Black as Long John Silver; Elizabeth Bunch as Jim Hawkins; Chris Hutchison as Ezekiel Hazard/Tom Morgan; Charles Krohn as Billy Bones; John Tyson as Israel Hands/Blind Pew. Returning after their recent work in the Alley’s production of Hitchcock Blonde are Mark Shanahan as George Merry; Melissa Pritchett as Anne Bonny; and Leraldo Anzaldua as Bomba Desperada. Rounding out the cast are Noble Shropshire as Ben Gunn (Alley’s A Christmas Carol and Journey’s End); and John Feltch as Dr. Livesey/Captain Flint (Alley Theatre’s To Kill a Mockingbird).

The design team for Treasure Island includes scenic designer Eugene Lee. Lee has been the production designer at “Saturday Night Live” since 1974. He has won three Tony Awards for Candide, Sweeney Todd, and Wicked and American Theatre Wing’s Design Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award and Pell Award and earlier this year was inducted into the New York Theatre Hall of Fame. Other New York theatre work include Pirate Queen, Alice in Wonderland, The Normal Heart, Agnes of God, Ragtime, Uncle Vanya, Ruby Sunrise and A Number. Film credits include Coppola's Hammett, Huston's Mr. North and Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street.

Costume designer Constance Hoffman is returning to the Alley after having designed costumes for Hamlet and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Her designs have been seen at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C.; The Public Theatre; The Second Stage; The Center Stage; Hartford Stage; The Guthrie, among others. Lighting designer Clifton Taylor returns to the Alley after designing last season’s Witness for the Prosecution, recent Broadway credits include Jay Johnson: The Two and Only, Hot Feet, and Frozen. John Gromada, original music and sound designer created original music and/or sound design for the Alley’s productions of Subject to Fits, The Pillowman, A Christmas Carol, Witness for the Prosecution, among others. Some of his Broadway credits include Rabbit Hole, Heartbreak House, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Finally, making his Alley debut is fight director Steve Rankin. Rankin performed and staged the fights for the Tony Award-winning production of Henry IV, Parts I and II at the Lincoln Center. Most recently he staged the fights for the smash Broadway hit, Jersey Boys.

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