Treasure Island: More Than Just a “Boy’s Book”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Although conceived with a juvenile audience in mind, Treasure Island was not truly a “boys’ book.”

Serious adult readers admired the work, including Stevenson’s friend, early modernist author and literary theorist Henry James, who declared that “Treasure Island will surely become—it must already have become and will remain—a classic.”

Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone was reported to have stayed up all night to finish it, prompting Stevenson, who was no fan of the politician, to comment that he “would do better to attend to the imperial affairs of England.”

Stevenson did not, of course, write the first book about pirates and buried treasure. His historical and fictional influences were numerous.

“I care not a jot.”

A major source of information (and disinformation) on the so-called “Golden Age of Piracy,” Captain Charles Johnson’s “General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates” appeared in 1724.

Stevenson acknowledged his literary debts to Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” for Silver’s parrot; Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug” for the skeleton; Frederick Marryat’s “Masterman Ready” for the stockade; Charles Kingsley’s “At Last” for the ‘Dead Man’s Chest'; and Washington Irving’s “Tales of a Traveller” for the scenes of Billy Bones at the Admiral Benbow.

Regarding his borrowing from these “useful writers,” the author declared: “I care not a jot.” In Treasure Island, Stevenson was consciously creating something new from familiar material, and he transcended his sources and shattered stereotypes.

World Premiere of New Musical set for March

Set to a thrilling musical score and full of action, adventure and excitement, Treasure Island, A New Musical offers a fresh take on the famous story by Robert Louis Stevenson in its World Premiere on The Rep stage in March.

Rep audiences will be the first to see this production, created by Brett Smock, Carla Vitale and Corinne Aquilina and featuring set design by Stanley Meyer (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), a Broadway and Tony-award winning cast (Wicked, The Addams Family, Billy Elliot, Dreamgirls) and The Rep’s own Rafael Castanera as costume designer after his amazing work on The Wiz and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Bored by his mundane life at the Admiral Benbow Inn, and entranced by the mysterious Captain Billy Bones and his wild seafaring tales, young Jim Hawkins yearns for a life of adventure. His wish is soon granted as members of the infamous Captain Flint crew pursue Bones and his hidden treasure map.

When Bones dies in a struggle for the map, Jim narrowly escapes with his life and Bones’ prize possession. With a sturdy crew in place led by Long John Silver, and with Jim under the protection of a doctor, a nobleman and a stoic ship’s captain, they set sail in search of their fortunes. As greed escalates, mutiny threatens and loyalties are forever broken.

As both pirates and crew battle to discover the coveted Isle of Treasure, the camps arrive where “X” marks the spot. Will they find the treasure? And if so, at what cost? Little Rock audiences will be the first to find out when this World Premiere production opens on The Rep stage. Visit www.therep.org for tickets.