(*At 45 minutes, The Blue Lagoon: A Musical gets a lower-case wow!)

When Henry De Vere Stacpoole wrote his romance novel The Blue Lagoon back in 1908, little did he know that a century later, his teenaged heroine Emmeline Lestrange would be singing “(Oh Dear God Above) Please Keep Us Safe On This Ocean” to her first cousin Richard, who would then reply with an encouraging “With Dick around, you don’t have to frown.”

What? You don’t recall this sequence from the 1980 film adaptation starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins? Hardly a surprise, since it comes from Jonathan Padget’s outrageously campy The Blue Lagoon: A Musical, forty-five minutes of hummable tunes, devilish double entendres, and clever sight gags now getting its West Coast Premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

With a budget a teensy weensy fraction of the movie’s $12,000,000 (that’s in 2011 dollars), The Blue Lagoon: A Musical substitutes slides on a movie screen for authentic locations, a plastic toy ship for Em and Dick’s lifeboat, and an inflatable wading pool for the titular Lagoon. Cost-saving and ingenious.

As for the novel’s cast of characters, all that remain onstage are our highly hormonal lovebirds—cheery Dick (“With Dick around, you don’t have to frown”) and gloomy Em (“Dick, Are We Doomed To Die On This Dinghy?”) While the orphaned Dick has had years to adjust to his parents’ death from consumption (“Consumption, Em. Not syphilis!), Em’s orphanhood is considerably more recent, her father’s ship having just blown poor Papa into a million pieces. Still, regardless of their current shipwrecked status, Dick reassures his first cousin that happiness can be found, even here on a deserted island (and even if a tad incestuous).

The next thing you know, the duo are stripped down to their swimsuits, Dick headed off in search of fresh fruit as Em lies seductively on the beach, writing in her diary and thinking to herself, “There’s something about Dick. Here he’s a different Dick entirely.” When Dick returns with a yard-long inflatable Chiquita banana sticking out from his trunks, Em greets him with a foot-wide plastic fish, similarly situated, and if that doesn’t start the duo’s pubescent blood a-racing, then Dick’s go-go boy moves certainly will.

As anyone with half an imagination can guess, these two teens in lust will hardly be able to resist a dip in the blue lagoon, not with a song like “(Even Though We’re Related) My Heart Palpitates When I See You” rising from their throats, not as they splash water upon each other’s semi-naked bodies and plunge deeper and deeper into the four-letter word we call love.

And then, nine months later…

Book/music/lyrics-writer Padget knows that a little camp can go a long way, and wisely keeps The Blue Lagoon: A Musical coming in at under three quarters of an hour. There may still be a few too many Dick jokes, but with direction as spot-on as Kenny Howard’s, performances as delightfully tongue-in-cheek as those of Shayna Albertson and Anthony Johnson (each a highly attractive New York-based triple threat blessed with terrific comic chops and powerful pipes), lines as B-movie memorable as “Face the facts. We’re someplace where ships don’t go,” and musical hooks as catchy as Padget’s, The Blue Lagoon: A Musical does precisely what it sets out to do. It entertains.

Wearing many creative hats, Padget serves also as producer, designer of show logo, set, props, and tracks. Director Howard has designed slides and sound. Costumes are by the two leads themselves.

If ever there was a go-anywhere show, The Blue Lagoon: A Musical is it. With a boom box to take the place of a theater sound system and props that can fit inside a small trunk, Padget and company can take this show just about anywhere, from gay bachelor parties to Upper West Side bat mitzvahs to progressive charity fund raisers and beyond. It would also make a great late-night offering at an LGBT theater like The Celebration or an edgy one like Sacred Fools.

It’s hard to imagine a more Hollywood Fringe Festival-ready production than The Blue Lagoon: A Musical. Albertson and Johnson have bright musical theater careers ahead of them, and as for Padget, I can’t wait to see Return To The Blue Lagoon: A Musical, or whatever he comes up with next.

Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
–Steven Stanley
June 23, 2011

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