With their latest show “Treasure Island in the Bay of Bengal,” playing through April 28, Austin Scottish Rite Theater continues a charming season of all-ages theater to appeal to young audiences across Austin.
Following on the heels of “RAP Unzel,” a new show that tackled issues of race in a sensitive, child-friendly manner, “Treasure Island” is geared more toward pure adventure and entertainment, albeit with a multicultural twist.
Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate novel, Zane Baker and Susan Gayle Todd’s adaptation of “Treasure Island” retells the book’s story as though it were a Bollywood-style musical adventure. Importantly, though, they recast the lead child adventurer as a girl, Jiniya Huq, played with innocent sweetness and boundless enthusiasm by the effervescent Krishna Gajjar.
The show’s charm comes in the unexpected ways that it blends its two influences. The delightful Sacred Cowgirls Band (Marguerite Elliott, Pauravi Rana and Kim Roche) perform live versions of classic sea shanties remixed as Bollywood songs, accompanied by lively singing and dancing from the cast. These tunes are jaunty, catchy and a highlight of the show.
Beyond just the music, though, directors Susan Gayle Todd and Megan Moore Ortiz mix traditional pirate tropes with high-energy physicality, making for a fun, funny romp. Also of note are several puppets, crafted by costumer designer Gerri Hoffman, that add to the joy and humor of the production.
Because the story is ultimately a rather straightforward adaptation of “Treasure Island,” adults who are familiar with the tale may find themselves bored with the plot, but younger viewers will appreciate the lively, good-natured adventurism of it all. It is very much aimed at this target audience, and in that it succeeds with great gusto.