REVIEW: The classic 1960s TV comedy gets a lightweight, campy rendering as a musical.
No one does camp better than Minneapolis Musical Theatre. And camp is what we expect from a show titled "Gilligan's Island: The Musical." MMT artistic director Steven Meerdink does a nice job with this delightful trifle, currently running at Illusion Theatre in Minneapolis.
The book is faithful to the 1960s television show on which it's based. Which makes sense, is it is written by Sherwood Schwartz, who created the show, and his son, Lloyd. The music and lyrics are by Schwartz's daughter and son-in-law, Hope and Laurence Jubar.
The musical is really just a series of sitcom sketches and comic bits, full of corny dialogue, holding together a meager plot. Antics that are humorous for 30 minutes wear thin after two hours. But Meerdinck creates an endless series of increasingly outrageous and clever slapstick bits.
The score is made up of pleasant tunes, but none are especially memorable. The original theme song is the best of the lot and is used liberally. There's an effort to give each of the seven original characters individual numbers, whether the plot demands it or not. As a result, the show can drag.
The cast make an accomplished vocal ensemble, under the capable music direction of Lori Maxwell. One of the highlights is the Professor (Joe Hendren) delivering a Gilbert & Sullivan-style patter song about education. Angela Fox's Ginger is an effective screen siren.
The characters that best embody the comic reality of the original, while giving it a nice satiric twist, are Marlin Rothe and Joyce Norman, as Mr. and Mrs. Howell. And they expertly dance their movie-musical choreography.
Rebecca Gebhart's sweet soprano makes Mary Ann's affection for Gilligan the emotional heart of the production. As on the TV show, the Skipper of Ryan Grimes proves a nice comic compatriot to Gilligan.
Unfortunately, Ryan Levin's Gilligan is the show's weak link. A master of the pratfall, he can't capture Bob Denver's gentle naiveté. He is artificial rather than charming and plays the character too broadly.
Efficient cartoon sets by Darren Hensel and witty tongue-in-cheek costumes by Suzie Lorenz give the show a pleasant look.
This is a piece of fluff, light summer escapist entertainment that captures the spirit of the original series. On those terms, it is successful.