As a child, Riley Nottingham knew of Gilligan’s Island, but his first real introduction to the classic television series and its iconic characters came when he saw a “dinner version” performed live. It prompted Nottingham to watch his parents old recorded video tapes of the show.
Nottingham also learnt about an official musical adaptation of the television series.
“I always thought it was interesting that no one in Australia had heard of this official adaptation of one of the most famous tv shows of all time,” said Nottingham.
“I thought someone’s got to do it, so I’ll do it!”
Getting the rights to produce Gilligan’s Island the Musical in Australia wasn’t as straight forward as other shows. The musical is an official adaptation written by the original creators of the television show: Sherwood and Lloyd J Schwartz. The rights had returned to the family estate and were no longer available.
Nottingham contacted the composers of the musical, Laurence and Hope Juber, and flew to America to meet with them and the Schwartz family. He showed them the comedy work he’s done with his production company Humdrum Comedy, pitched his idea for bringing Gilligan’s Island the Musical to Australia and secured the rights and their approval. The approval was also given for Riley Nottingham to play the pivotal role of Gilligan.
This official musical adaptation of Gilligan’s Island is very different to the cabaret-style dinner show that Riley Nottingham first saw as a child. This is a full musical with high production values.
“The show is for anyone who grew up with Gilligans Island and loved it,” said Nottingham, adding that it also appeals to any fans of musical comedy.
“There’s something for everyone. It’s really funny, but isn’t offensive. Everyone will get something different out of it.”
The role of Gilligan was famously portrayed by actor Bob Denver. Nottingham knows there are certain physical characteristics that audiences will expect to see. Taking on the role has been very challenging physical work.
“It’s so silly and so slapstick!” exclaimed Nottingham.
“Everyone has a particular mannerism. There are things that happen in the musical that don’t happen in the show. It’s about peppering the performance with that homage to the past.”
Nottingham laughed as he recalled some of his favourite moments from the television series – the fact that visitors could arrive at the island, interact with the castaways and then leave the island, but the castaways never left with them. There was an endearing predictability about the characters.
Fans of the Gilligan’s Island will love the musical, but as Riley Nottingham added, “If you haven’t watched an episode, the musical will introduce you to it.”
Gilligan’s Island the Musical is playing at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel with four performances this weekend.