Adaptations of television shows like “Beverly Hillbillies” and “M*A*S*H” have proven to be among the most popular productions offered by the Lyric Performing Acts Company, so why fight it? “Gilligan’s Island: The Musical” opens tonight for an eight-show run at the Lyric Theatre downtown.
Developing a stage play for a concept so familiar to so many people is tricky. After all, many of us watched the CBS television show “Gilligan’s Island” that ran for three seasons in the 1960s. Others enjoyed the syndicated reruns that were broadcast in the decades that followed.
The audience regards the characters as family members and can probably name each one in order, thanks to the lyrics of the theme song that somehow you can’t get out of your head. Plus, the shipwreck of the S.S. Minnow is iconic in American cultural history. Fortunately, it all works to the advantage of the Lyric’s production, which utilizes this familiar ensemble and tropical setting to send a dissimilar group of hopelessly lost tourists on a new and literally out-of-this-world adventure.
Enhance the plot with some meaningful musical interludes along with truly ingenious technical wizardry and you have the makings of an enjoyable couple of hours of entertainment.
The Lyric cast bears an uncanny physical resemblance to the characters on television, so there’s no doubt about who’s who. And it only takes a couple of minutes of orientation to accept — to offer two examples — that Jonathan Harvey (not Alan Hale Jr.) is playing the Skipper, and that Larry Mathis (not Jim Backus) is playing Thurston Howell III. Mathis is working double duty for this excursion, because he is also the show’s director.
Playwrights Hope Juber and Laurence Juber were imminently qualified to handle this assignment, and the results show on stage. Hope Juber is the daughter of Sherwood Schultz, who created and produced the original “Gilligan’s Island” and shares credit for this musical adaption. Schwartz had a distinguished career in radio and television developing and writing for other popular programs like “The Bob Hope Show,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Red Skelton Show,” and “My Favorite Martian.”
Hope Juber grew up in Los Angeles in a creative family. Her first acting role was as Greg Brady’s girlfriend Rachel on “The Brady Bunch,” a show also created by her father.
The musical resumé of Hope’s husband, Laurence, dates back to his tenure as lead guitarist for “Wings.” A native of England, he has built a successful career as a solo artist, studio musician, and composer.
Having the S.S. Minnow shipwreck on a theater’s stage instead of a television studio back lot gives the writers fresh opportunities to develop the characters of the cast. That’s a luxury rarely afforded to 30-minute television broadcasts. While the characters are exaggerated to the point of becoming stereotypical, it’s all for laughs and the laughs are plentiful. Of course, what would a comedy be without a touch of suspense, and the Lyric show delivers that as well.
It’s the first show of the Lyric’s 2019 season, so now’s the ideal time to sign up as a Patron and secure your season tickets. Included are “The Odd Couple” in April, “Windows Home” opening in late May, the Lyric’s popular summer musical “9 to 5” in July, “Ring of Fire” in October, and “It’s A Wonderful Life Live Radio Play” in December.
So, all hands on deck! Go online to www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at email@example.com.