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THEATER REVIEW / 'TREASURE ISLAND' : A Chestful of Fun in an Old Chestnut : Santa Susana Rep's game musical version of Stevenson's classic makes for an enjoyable family outing.


Give the Santa Susana Repertory Company credit for showing the nerve to adapt "Treasure Island" as a new musical. Better still, give them cash--the show provides a lot of fun for the money.

Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of a plucky lad thrown in with bloodthirsty pirates is just over 100 years old, and has been filmed at least four times. In each version the starring role has gone to the actor who plays Long John Silver--a brigand who charms his way onto the ship disguised as a cook, waiting in the kitchen until it's time to take over. (Doesn't this sound like the plot of Steven Segal's "Under Siege"?)

Wes Deitrick, a longtime member of Ventura County's community theater scene, directs his own script, adapted from the Stevenson novel. Songs range from vintage material that could have been learned from Kingston Trio albums to several numbers written by James Egan and Randy Caldwell especially for this production.

While Wallace Beery, Orson Welles and Charlton Heston have all fit into Silver's boots with relative comfort, the role belongs to Australian actor Robert Newton, who played him in Walt Disney's 1950 version and in 1954's "Long John Silver."

Newton's lovably hammy ghost looms large over this "Treasure Island" as well, not only in Richard Fullerton's portrayal of Silver, but--even more so--by lyricist and assistant director James Egan, who took over for the absent Robert M. Grant at last Saturday's matinee.

The Santa Susana "Treasure Island" is a work in progress; 20 minutes were cut between the first previews and last weekend's official opening, and it's possible that more changes will be made. As of last weekend, the play ran less than two hours, including intermission, a tolerable length for audiences from 7 or 8 years old on up. Because of the length and some violence, it isn't recommended for children any younger.

Deitrick's script is lean and action-packed, and frequently witty. The original songs are more ambitious than memorable but serve their purpose well enough. They might be better served by better singers; this crew sings like, well, a bunch of pirates. And not the Pirates of Penzance, though Gilbert & Sullivan certainly stand among Egan and Caldwell's sources of inspiration.

Anthony F. Ross stars as Jim Hawkins. Though he is older than most readers might picture the character, Ross compensates with boyish enthusiasm and commanding stage presence. With his somewhat reserved portrayal, Fullerton certainly cannot be accused of overplaying Long John Silver. In fact, the role is more demanding physically than in terms of acting. But instead of a peg leg, Fullerton limps around on one leg and a crutch, which he handles with skill and imagination.

Among the stronger supporting characters are Ian Warwick as Dr. Livsey, Richard Harwood as the vain and stupid Squire Trelawney, and Sergio Bertoli as the seaman known as Black Dog.

Several of the 17 male cast members play more than one role. In addition, three women work at the Benbow Inn, barmaids played by Melissa S. Arias and Heather Viau, and Susan Turner as Hawkins' innkeeper mother.

The set design, by Todd and Doug Bancroft-Billings, is versatile and evocative, and the costumes, credited to Susan Turner and Holley Davies, are fine, and the swordplay, under the supervision of Anthony F. Ross, is quite convincing.


"Treasure Island" continues weekends through June 27 at the Conejo Community Center, 1300 Hendrix Drive, Thousand Oaks. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2. Tickets are $10; $7.50 students and seniors; and $5 for children. For reservations or further information, call 374-8282.


Camarillo Community Theatre will hold auditions for its upcoming production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella" beginning tonight at the Camarillo Community Center, 1605 Burnley. Originally written for television, the show was first seen as a 90-minute special on CBS in January, 1967, with a cast including Lesley Ann Warren in the title role, Walter Pidgeon and Ginger Rogers as the King and Queen, and Celeste Holm as the fairy godmother; John Green was the musical director. Kevin Parcher will direct this revival, which will play at the Camarillo Airport Theater weekends between Aug. 13 and Sept. 11. Auditions will be held from 7 to 10 tonight, 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 12 and 2 to 5 p.m. June 13. Those auditioning are asked to prepare a show tune; an accompanist will be provided. For information or an interview appointment, call Parcher at 482-5049 or Pat Carroll at 388-2773.

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