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Devil and the Deep
This action-packed, family-friendly musical is now in a world premiere at Theater 3. The tale is set in the mid-18th Century Bristol, England and highlights young Jim Hawkins, played by Ethan Gabriel Riordan, who has a lifelong yearning for adventure on the high seas.
Jim works for his mother (Raissa Katona-Bennett) in the Admiral Benbow Inn. One evening, a bedraggled sailor, Billy Bones, wanders in, hoisting a chest and ready for some rum and quiet. He warns Jim not to open his chest and keep an eye out for a one-legged sailor named Long John Silver. After Billy Bones dies, opens the chest and finds some gold coins and a map leading to vast treasure buried by ol' Pirate Flint with an X to mark the spot where the treasure lies. So the story goes and so begins Jim Hawkins' adventure.
First, however, 12-year-old Jim needs his mother's blessing. Although she needs his help at the Inn, she also recognizes his fierce desire to take to the seas. Her touching "Be Who You Must Be," shows that she knows she must let him go. And so he boards the Hispaniola, a ship bound for Skull Island in the Caribbean and his life-changing adventures. He meets the villainous Long John Silver (Eric Coles), finds love, faces danger and betrayal and finally, instead of buried booty, realizes that the real treasure is home.
It is the music by Graham Russell (touring with Air Supply ) and Katie McGhie that boosts the relevance of the story from a classic children's must-read to a lively theatrical production. Stevenson's original story has been trimmed by librettist Melissa Bell to make room for expansive musical productions and songs that enliven the tale with fun and imagination. Old-style theatrical pirate tunes mixed in with hints of Les Miz.
Warning: Regarding the lyrics, land lubbers might occasionally have to refer to the included glossary of such sea-theme linguistics as "Tip us a stave" (meaning to start up a song or rhythm to back the sailors as they swab the decks). A special nod to Raissa Katona Bennett as the warm, hard-working widow Also notable in this able cast is Courtney Shaw as spunky Benita, marooned on the island three years ago, who sings, "Benita Knows." A crowd-pleaser is Cap'n' Flint, a parrot puppet (Skyer Volpe) who shadows Long John Silver.
Sarita Lou's vigorous choreography for bold buccaneers, complete with Alex Reed's well-crafted fight sequences by rum-drinking sailors keep the action going. Creative touches include the dolphin leaping around the theater. The set design is simple but efficient with dramatic lighting effects by Adrienne Carlile.
After its initial run June 11-27, the producers will seek a larger venue for a longer run. Good news for the young at heart. Judging by the few children on this evening, the humor and energy of Devil and the Deep will fit the bill for family summer entertainment.
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