Here's a question: What's more corny than the television show Gilligan's Island? If you guessed Gilligan's Island: the Musical, you're correct, little buddy! The folks at Rover Dramawerks have staged a production of this light-hearted show complete with all the corny jokes one would expect from a musical based on a 1960s sitcom.
Along with Gilligan (Coby Cathey), the show resurrects familiar characters from the television series including the Skipper (Russell Harris), Thurston Howell III (Donald C. Cook) and his wife Lovey Howell (Lauren Gao), the movie star Ginger Grant (Heather Walker Shin), the Professor (Ian Moore), and Mary Ann (Jennifer R. Sublett). As in the television series, the castaways are trying to get off the island, but Gilligan bungles their efforts.
With the Skipper and Gilligan, the Professor discovers some hieroglyphics in a cave and manages to decipher what it says: there used to be an ancient civilization of people who lived on the same island. Things get dangerous, though, when Gilligan encounters an alien (Elizabeth Lambert) who resembles Gene Simmons in all his Kiss face paint glory. The alien gives a warning for all humans on earth: "Change your ways, or you are doomed." What exactly this means, we don't really know. In the end, the castaways learn that they can survive if they learn to get along in what amounts to a kumbaya moment with the song "World's Apart."
There is an abundance of corny jokes and some not-so-stellar music. In "Hieroglyphics," the entire song is about the Professor teaching Gilligan how to spell the word "hieroglyphics." We could have done without that one. Still, with the direction of Rebecca McDonald, the show does capture the silliness and charm of the original television series. It is a treat to see these old, familiar characters brought to life again all on a beautiful set (designed by Abigail Kipp) complete with bamboo and thatched huts. Just like on the television show, these huts somehow manage to withstand hurricane winds.
As the naïve and bumbling Gilligan, Cathey manages to breathe some new life into this iconic image of pop culture. He dives into the role and embraces the silliness of Gilligan with an earnest enthusiasm. You can't go half way with a situation comedy of this sort, or it just falls flat. And Cathey most certainly does not. He flings himself into all the physical humor that the role calls for. When Gilligan discovers an Easter Island-like statue, he volunteers to climb it. In an impressive acrobatic manouver, Cathey makes a hilarious attempt twisting and turning himself upside down while clinging to the statue. The audience at Friday's performance loved every minute he was on stage.
Mary Ann and Gilligan spark a romantic relationship and provide some of the more satisfying moments of the production. As the sweet and innocent Mary Ann, Sublett has one of the best voices of the show. She and Cathey provide us with one of the few notable songs on the duet "Things I Never Said."
If you're familiar with the original Gilligan's Island, then you'll know what to expect from this musical. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, it's as dizzy as can be—but in a good way.