Does your community theater seem to put on the same basic two dozen or so plays every few years? Isn’t it time they stepped up to the plate and ventured into the territory of the experimental? No, I’m not talking about Samuel Beckett, I’m talking about Gilligan’s Island: The Musical. Kind of like High School Musical, Gilligan’s Island: The Musical is traveling theater experience that can be mounted by just about anyone with a desire to bring the Gilligan, the Skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star and the rest (just kidding, the Professor and Mary Ann) to life. Already, a list of the towns where this theatrical production has been enjoyed reads like the lyrics from a Johnny Cash song: “It’s been to Scottsdale, Auburn, Cincinnati, Fargo…Hicksville, Washington, Birmingham, Orlando.” And it goes on. A 2006 production in Coral Springs, Florida even had the extra added benefit of Dawn Wells, the original Mary Ann, appearing as Mrs. Lovey Howell and Barry Williams tossing off his Greg Brady hippie clothes for the button-down appearance of Thurston Howell, III. You probably won’t be so lucky to see such inspired casting, but the play is the thing.
Don’t go thinking that Gilligan’s Island: The Musical is some cut-rate knockoff by a hack who never had an original idea. The book was written by none other than series creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd, whose name also occasionally pops up in the credits. The music was co-written by Sherwood Schwartz’s daughter and Lawrence Juber. Juber’s musical qualifications? Once upon a time he was a member of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles group Wings. The story itself is a conglomeration of plots from various actual Gilligan’s Island episodes that basically features those cave drawings, some of the more famous headhunters, and an alien from a UFO. One of the highlights of the show is when Gilligan actually flies through the air courtesy of a strong typhoon wind. This story is kept glued together by original songs, as well as the famous and beloved opening theme song.
For instance, there is a song titled “The Professor’s Lament” which is about the brilliant scientist’s frustration with only being able to make such things as washing machines and lie detectors instead of something that can get the castaways off the island. And then there is the song titled “It’s Good to be Rich” which is sung by, well, I’m sure you can guess. Gilligan’s Island: The Musical has actually been around since 1993 during its early workshop days in LA. When a play is being workshopped it means it is being tinkered with through production by those involved. Workshopping can tell what is working, what isn’t and what needs to be fine tuned or eschewed entirely. (That romantic kiss between Gilligan and Mary Ann that you’ve been waiting decades for finally takes place!) In fact, the songs especially reveal some character motivations that were left unspoken, such as why the Skipper has put up with Gilligan’s ineptitude for so long. It may be kind of like watching the director’s cut of Donnie Darko to some people: too much information. In 2001 the musical underwent more revising and since then Gilligan’s Island: The Musical has gone on to be performed around the world. Clips from various productions, mainly featuring the show’s original songs, in a wild variety of genres and styles, can be found on YouTube and AOL Video by typing Gilligan’s Island: The Musical into the search box.