Gilligan’s Island - the Musical
- By gentleguide
- On Fri 06 Jul 2018
You can sit right back and hear a tale of a fateful trip beginning July 13 when Carousel Theatre of Indianola presents the Iowa Premiere of Gilligan’s Island – the Musical.
The seven castaways are all there, with misadventures galore, plus a few songs along with the laughs.
For those few who don’t know, Gilligan’s Island was a TV show that premiered in 1964. It ran for three seasons, detailing the comic tales of seven very different people who were shipwrecked on a desert isle and their failed attempts at rescue. Created by Sherwood Schwartz, the show became a huge hit in reruns, showing afternoons all across the country in the 1970’s. A generation of kids grew up knowing Gilligan, the Skipper, and all the rest of the ill-fated passengers of the tiny S.S. Minnow.
All of the original characters from Gilligan’s Island are here (and you would expect nothing less, since the musical was written by members of the family of Sherwood Schwarz himself). Greg DiMarco gets to be the first mate Gilligan, with the Skipper played by Russell Jones. Real-life married couple Joel and Deb Hade play millionaire couple Thurston and Lovey Howell. Dan Minderman is the Professor, Andra Peeler plays Kansas farm girl Mary Ann, and Emma Norman plays Hollywood starlet Ginger Grant in the Indianola version.
“The musical is very easy to understand,” says Norman, “for even those who have never seen an episode of Gilligan’s Island! It starts at the very beginning, starting with the shipwreck so everything is explained through both dialogue and song. In addition, the characters are all introduced so, even for first-time watchers, everything is very clear. As far as direct references to the show, the only ones are the inclusion of the beginning and ending songs, so anyone who knows Gilligan’s Island will be delighted to hear those familiar tunes.”
The TV show could be rather outrageous at times, which gives everyone in the musical version a chance to really play great comedic moments. The musical isn’t a parody, but Gilligan’s Island was often a parody of other things when it initially aired. “The original show was rather broad in scope,” Norman continues, “which I believe helped to lead to the versatility and longevity of the series. I believe that this musical actually does, in fact, stick relatively closely to the original show with the exception of the addition of more music/songs.”
“You see the same characters involved, as well as the same story line that they are shipwrecked on a deserted island and they try various unsuccessful attempts at getting off the island. The tone, like the show, is very comedic with some tender moments sprinkled in that the original show did not have.”
While this new cast has some familiarity with the original show, there was some research involved in order to play their parts. Norman relates, “The cast and crew I think for the most part were all on the same level of knowledge of the TV show. We either grew up watching the show or reruns of the show, and we have had to go back and re-watch the series so as to properly portray our characters and get some more insight as to the nuances of our characters so that we would bring those into the musical.”
Norman did her own due diligence in order to prepare for her role as Ginger. “The part of Ginger is very iconic in the Gilligan’s Island cast, so this to me brings a different kind of challenge playing this character. I have watched several episodes of Gilligan’s Island as well as clips, trying to get a feeling for her main characteristics/nuances that the audience members would associate with Ginger. No one can play Ginger the way [original TV actress] Tina Louise did, and for that reason there is a certain level of personal interpretation to the character. With all that being said, I am going to stick fairly closely to the original Ginger.”
Ginger is also the sex symbol character in the original show, which means that Norman gets to vamp it up occasionally. “I played the part exotic dancer, Peaches Marie Crabtree, in Carousel’s fall murder mystery dinner theatre production of To Wake the Dead last fall. This helped me become more in tune to playing up my sensuousness through body movements, and this has definitely give me an edge up on the sensual character of Ginger Grant. So while I haven’t played the part of a movie star before, I have played a character that helped prepare me for the part.”
Most of the shows that Carousel Theatre performs are presented at the First United Methodist Church in Indianola. The talented people on the stage crew have had to create the look and feel of the castaways’ home on the small stage they have to work with. “Thanks to some very creative people, I believe we’ve managed to do it!” says Norman. “They came up with some good huts that line the stage and, I believe, are actually really close to the original series. It took a lot of foliage to help get the set looking just right.”
It’s not just the island and the castaways’ living quarters that needed set dressing. On the TV show, glamorous Ginger Grant seemed to have an amazing amount of costumes for someone who was only initially going to be on a scheduled three-hour boat excursion, and those had to be found as well.
Norman exclaims, “Ooo the gowns! Yes, it’s true I get to wear the gorgeous outfits! Since this is a community theatre, each actor/actress has to provide for their own costumes/props, etc. for the show, so I did my homework and got a really glitzy dress, a white dress, a beach outfit, and yes, the dress [from the original series] with ‘S.S Minnow’ is one of them! I tried as much as I could to stay true to the show and to be as creative as possible to come up with outfits that would remind fans of Gilligan’s Island of the original outfits that Ginger wore.”
The castaways all have high hopes for rescue, although I have a feeling that’s probably not likely to happen. But it’s the voyage, not the destination, which is the important part. For the cast and crew of Gilligan’s Island – the Musical, the journey has been lots of fun so far. And the audience gets to join in soon for a not-quite three hour tour to watch and enjoy their adventures. According to Norman, “We’ve all worked really hard to make this a wonderful show that the whole family can enjoy and we can’t wait to show everyone, both old and new Gilligan’s Island fans, what we have been working on!”
Carousel Theatre of Indianola presents Gilligan’s Island – the Musical for two weekends with performances starting July 13. Shows are at the First United Methodist Church in Indianola, and tickets will be available at the door.