Imagine sitting in your home watching a rerun of Gilligan’s Island when suddenly, the characters come through the screen, stand in your living room, and sing about their adventures while engaging in the slapstick goodness you’ve come to expect. If that idea appeals to you, then find yourself at the Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre’s production of Gilligan’s Island: The Musical.
Developed in the early ’90s by original show creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd, Gilligan’s Island: The Musical includes classic moves from the television program, including the falling off the hammock gag, Skipper hitting Gilligan on the head with his hat, Gilligan cluelessly getting in Skipper’s way, and more. What’s been added are songs that convey both character story arcs and plot points, with no subtlety whatsoever (thankfully).
Written and composed by Schwartz’s daughter Hope Juber and her husband Laurence Juber, the songs are whimsical and folksy, never trying to be classical masterpieces and always conveying the playful nature of the show. In “Lucky Guy,” hapless first mate Gilligan (played with childlike wonderment and infectious energy by Joseph Waeyaert) sings about gratitude, demonstrating the incessantly positive attitude that endeared the character to television audiences almost 50 years ago. Waeyaert can clearly dance, evidenced by his tap dancing in sneakers and his almost gracefully perfect clumsiness; his body moves like a hypermobile Gumby doll, bending and twitching at right angles at will. Waeyaert’s style is reminiscent of the opening credits for the Dick Van Dyke show, when the star bumbled his way through the door.
Jordan B. Stocksdale, aside from being Alan Hale’s doppelgänger, is perfectly cast as the Skipper. His presence is solid; he anchors all of his scenes in a groundedness that gives the audience confidence that the scene will come off just fine. His chemistry with Waeyaert is fantastic as he plays off of Gilligan’s simpleton persona with a combination of frustration and endearment. He pulls off slapstick with a presence of character that is hard to quantify.
Steve Steele and Melissa Ann Martin portrayed Thurston Howell III and Lovey Howell. Martin, stepping in for regular cast member Sarah Melinda, did an excellent job and had great chemistry with Steele.
Alexis Krey lapped up the role of sexpot Ginger, especially opposite Brandon Bedore’s perfectly clueless brainiac Professor in the song “Natural Phenomenon.” Bedore captures the nerdy professor, who is oblivious to anything that doesn’t have a symbol on the periodic table. His “Professor’s Lament” was a standout for the rapid-fire lyrics and Bedore’s befuddled genius persona.
Megan E. West as Mary Ann is the vocal standout. Her voice is crisp, clear, and pitch-perfect, and she uses it to garner audience sympathy during the lovely “How Do You Know You’re In Love.” West and Waeyaert have adorable, sweet chemistry; the audience believes their mutually unrequited love.
Patrick Ford makes a frightening, albeit youthful, Alien. His first appearance is from the audience, talking into a transmitter to the home planet with a screenshot of the Great Gazoo alien from the Flintstones on his transponder. His “Change Your Ways” set the stage for some great physical comedy punctuated several times during the show.
Director Bill Kiska understands the slapstick charm of the original series and brings out the most playful sides of his actors. His blocking is visually interesting and his set, co-designed by Stocksdale, is chock-full of island charm. Modular huts flank the stage and palm leaves dangle from the ceiling. The backdrop of sky and water anchors the whole image, with ramps leading out to the upstage wings for visually interesting entrances.
Stocksdale, wearing many more hats than the Skipper’s, provides excellent music direction. His cast’s harmonies blend beautifully, and the complex lyrics in “Hieroglyphics” and “Professor’s Lament” tumble out of his actors’ mouths smoothly. His precise timing is evident in the execution of the musical numbers.
Dee Buchanan’s choreography is simple and folksy, and Bill Kiska’s costumes are reminiscent of the original show’s wardrobe. Justin Kiska’s lighting is used to great effect, especially during the storm that rages on, and Deb Kiska’s props lend ambiance to the whole picture.
Nostalgia and laughter are necessary remedies for anything that ails, and Gilligan’s Island: The Musical provides both with delight. Make your way to Way Off Broadway and enjoy this quirky production filled with positivity and charm.
Recommended for all audiences.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Gilligan’s Island: The Musical plays through March 9, 2019, at the Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre – Willowtree Plaza, 5 Willowdale Drive #A1, in Frederick, MD. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM (doors open at 6:00 PM for dinner), and the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month at 2:15 PM (doors open at 12:30 PM for lunch). To purchase tickets, call the box office at 301-662-6600. Tickets are not sold online.