A scene from the performance of Treasure Island, currently showing at The Aurora Fox Arts Center. Photo provided by Gail Bransteitter

AURORA | If the advent of summer has you pining for some adventure on the high seas, the Aurora Fox might be able to tide you over in this landlocked state. The final show of the season, Treasure Island: A New Musical, is running for two more weeks.

It’s also going to be the Fox’s last show for a while — the theater announced recently that starting next season it’s shifting its calendar to start in January, though there will be some one-off productions to tide theatergoers over for the remainder of this year. All the more reason not to miss out.

This is the second year in a row the Fox has ended its season with a splashy (no pun intended) family-friendly musical, following last year’s rollicking production of Disney’s Freaky Friday. The production value of Treasure Island isn’t quite as high — the cast is smaller and it doesn’t make the same use of technology as Freaky Friday’s set did. But it still pulls out quite a lot of stops, including turning the stage into a pirate ship for the majority of the performance.

Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island yourself, the plot of the show should be quite familiar. Following the death of his father, young Jim Hawkins is helping his mother run the family inn when an erstwhile sailor Billy Bones appears as a guest with a mysterious treasure chest. Bones is attacked by a group of other men who are trying to find a map he has pointing to an island where infamous pirate Captain Flint supposedly buried his treasure. Bones dies, and Jim finds the map, which he shows to two of the family’s friends. The pair decide to crew a ship to go in search of the treasure, taking Jim along, with his mother’s grudging approval, as cabin boy. From there, mayhem ensues.

The show is appropriate for all ages, and might be best enjoyed with some young viewers who are less familiar with the story. The plotline hews closely to the original story, so for those who have already spent several decades immersed in various book, movie and stage adaptations of the tale it might not be quite so exciting. But despite the familiarity the cast does a good job bringing both humor and pathos to the plot, which in many ways is a coming of age story about our hero, Jim.

Clearly still hurting from the death of his father, we see Jim yearn for a life of adventure and wrestle with the challenges when it turns out that his nautical journey isn’t going the way he expected. We see him face betrayal from those he thought he could trust and watch him wrestle with how to ethically treat people who have hurt him and others. The loss of innocence that comes with maturing from a child into an adult is universally relatable, though in most cases it doesn’t happen while being kidnapped by pirates.

Interspersed with the drama there’s also plenty of comic relief, particularly in the form of one character who shows up in the second act. In what must be a fun production to perform in, the 11-person cast does an excellent job of bringing the ragtag pirate show crew to life. After a series of sparse casts earlier in the season it’s enjoyable to watch a big production.

Nathan Petit is particularly notable as Jim, and Scott McLean has a strong presence in dual roles first as Billy Bones and then long-suffering Captain Smollett.

This will be the last seasonal show at the Fox for the rest of the year. In an announcement on May 1, the Fox said that starting next season it will be shifting its season to a January-December schedule. To fill the rest of this year it will be holding a lineup of performances dubbed the “Fox Interlude” which will include a series of musical performances and a production of Cinderella geared towards young audiences. Tickets will be sold individually and not as part of a season pass. More details are available at aurorafox.org. 

City spokesperson Chelsea Jones said that the decision was made in part to align the season with the fiscal year of the city for cleaner accounting and reporting purposes. More details will be shared in the fall.

The Fox has also been without an executive director this season, after Helen R. Murray departed last year for a new position running a theater in the Tampa Bay area. Acting executive director Beau Bisson said that an announcement about the search is anticipated in the next couple of weeks.

Details about Fox Season 39 will be released at an announcement party and fundraiser on Sept. 9.

If you go:

Runs through May 21, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Approximate 2 hour and 15 minute runtime, including intermission

Adult tickets $28-$40

Purchase online at aurorafox.org or by calling 303-739-1970

Appropriate for all ages. Production features haze effects and non-firing prop weapons.

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