Regional Reviews: Phoenix
If you need a refresher on the setup of the TV show: a small group of people from different backgrounds find themselves shipwrecked on an island after embarking on a "three-hour tour" from Honolulu. They include the Skipper and Gilligan, the two-man crew of the S.S. Minnow, plus the millionaire couple the Howells, the movie star Ginger, the Professor and Mary Ann. Each episode of the show usually featured the strangers learning how to work together, while also occasionally getting on each other's nerves, while the fumbling, bumbling Gilligan always got in the way of anything they were trying to accomplish, including finding a way to get off the island.
The book for the musical plays out just like an episode of the show, even with a "guest star" who plays a character that impacts the fate of the castaways in a dramatic way. (I've been asked not to reveal the details of that character or the plot.) While the story is pretty dull, and the dialogue bland, there is one positive addition: the blossoming of the unrequited love between Gilligan and Mary Ann, which adds a few charming moments to the show. There are also some fun recurring items, including having Ginger react to dramatic situations by delivering dialogue from movies or plays she was in, and having the Professor and Mary Ann negatively react every time they are referred to as "the rest." Anyone who knows the theme song knows how those two were delegated to supporting characters until the theme song was updated to refer to them by name in later seasons.
The musical is written as an homage to the TV series and in no way a lampoon or send up of it, though it still is somewhat campy, so if you're expecting anything other than a retread of one of the episodes, with songs that almost always stop the momentum of the plot, you will most likely be disappointed. Perhaps someone not associated with Schwartz could have fared better with a more modern look at the material or an ironic spin on the characters and their situations, or adding some additional layers to the almost entirely one-dimensional characters.
Under Jon Gentry's astute direction the cast works well together to make most of the jokes land and his direction moves the show along at a brisk pace. The two-act play is performed at ABT without an intermission and runs only 90 minutes. The cast does an admirable job of depicting the well-known characters, though some don't achieve much more than a one-note caricature. Stephen Hohendorf is adorable as the fumbling, accident-prone Gilligan. Liz Fallon beautifully echoes sweetness and innocence as Mary Ann, and Lynzee Foreman is a hoot as the smokey-voiced, sultry and sexy Ginger. All three have excellent singing voices that make their sub-par songs soar. Dave Seaburg is all bluster as the always agitated Skipper, Darren Friedman and Cynthia Elek are appropriately smug and self-centered as the wealthy Howells, and, as the Professor who has multiple degrees, Tim Shawver is nicely understated in his sure-of-himself delivery. Tony Blosser is a hilarious breath of fresh air as the special guest star, with a gorgeous singing voice. While they give it their all, it would have been nice to see what some of this cast would have been able to do with better material.
Liz Fallon's choreography is simple but fun. Adam Berger's music direction achieves fairly good vocals from the cast. The set design by Jacob Nalley is minimal but does include a few nice touches as well as the use of the large video screen behind the stage. Carter Conaway's costume are fun homages to the TV designs, including some lush dresses for Ginger.
While Gilligan's Island: The Musical is far from a perfect musical, fans of the TV show should enjoy this musical trip back to the simpler time of life on the famous deserted island with these well-known castaways.
Gilligan's Island: The Musical runs through July 11, 2021, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. Tickets can be purchased at www.azbroadway.org or by calling 623-776-8400.
Director: Jon Gentry