Universal Monsters Universe takes a look back on Universal’s theme park show ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon musical’ and revisits an often forgotten chapter in Gill-Man’s history.
Creature from the Black Lagoon musical, or Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical, as it was formally known, was decidedly not my first introduction to the Universal Monster known as Gill-Man. But it was definitely a moment in his Universal legacy that always stood out among the rest. While classic Universal Monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy had been revisited time and time again, the Gill-Man only had his film appearances and that was it. His first appearance, Creature from the Black Lagoon opened in 1954 and by 1956 we had a total of three films such as Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. One could argue that the Gill-Man appeared in Monster Squad but perhaps that film is left for a better time.
Amid the 90’s resurgence of interest in the Universal Monsters and merchandise at an all time high, I personally thought the Gill-Man was the coolest looking out of all the classic monsters. After all, Dracula was just a vampire. Frankenstein was just a monster. But the Gill-Man? Now that was a creature and one to be feared! Sure he was sympathetic and was green (my favorite color as a child), but he could swim as well as appear on land. Now what other monster did we ever see pose a threat to people on land and by sea? Maybe Kharis in a subsequent Mummy film? But even then, Kharis and the mummies would just be seen coming out of a pond of sorts. The Creature or Gill-Man was as scary as the idea of a shark growing legs and chasing you onto a beach.
However, despite the scares and screams that could be provoked by the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Universal decided to redevelop the character as a rock n’ roll, stage show, musical in 2009 for their Universal Hollywood theme park. On June 2, 2008 Universal issued their first press release:
With state-of-the-art stagecraft, acrobatic choreography and hilarious, toe-tapping music, the Creature will be brought to life in a story based on the original screenplay, updated to emphasize the element of romance and just a bit of comic relief. Original new music and dazzling production numbers will keep the attraction contemporary and lively.
Audiences will be immersed in the ominous environment of the deepest Amazon, enveloped by the exotic sounds and scents of the jungle. And from the production’s first moments, they’ll be thrust into an unexpectedly outrageous, strangely romantic, frequently melodic and often hilarious adventure as a monster classic is re-imagined for the 21st Century.
“Creature from the Black Lagoon – The Musical” will be staged as an attraction within the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. Admission will be included in the price of theme park tickets and annual passes.
Based on the unpopularity of Universal Hollywood’s previous theme attraction, Fear Factor Live, Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical was the attraction set to replace it while also capitalizing on the then conversations in regards to the announced reboot by Breck Eisner. Unfortunately, Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical didn’t capture audiences attention when it had opened and only lasted a year. The show finally closed on March 9, 2010.
Interestingly, there was a lot of fanfare for Universal’s opening of Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical when it opened on June 30, 2009 and Julie Adams of the original classic was even on hand for opening night/media day. Theme Park Review has an excellent write up and coverage of that day from seven years ago.
While I didn’t see the show live, I have watched the performance via Inside Universal. The video is provided below and while the show isn’t necessarily of the same size and spectacle as some of Broadway’s latest shows, for a theme park attraction Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical was impressive. And fun! The show received mixed reviews with some people calling it an outright “abomination” but it was an interesting creative decision Universal made regarding their famous monster. The music and lyrics for Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical worked and while some lines seemed a bit on the nose and campy, they ultimately prove catchy in a 60’s ish camp rock kind of way. “The show is 25 minutes in length, and the storyline has been updated from the original movie which debuted in 1954. Universal Studios Hollywood describes the musical as “outrageous, bizarrely romantic, melodic, and outlandishly comedic. This new show is geared toward a more mature audience, as it contains innuendo”
“Black Lagoon” – is the opening number created to convey the overall tone of the show and introduce the audience to the Amazon environment and cast of characters. The song reprises during the performance. Music by Fred Barton. Lyrics by Fred Barton, Gerard Alessandrini, Ross Osterman.
“Slay Me” – is Kay’s solo performed during her choreographed swimming sequence with the Creature. Music by Peter Fish. Lyrics by Peter Fish and Ross Osterman.
“Prime Evil” — is an ensemble performance designed to tell the story of the Creature kidnapping Kay. Music by Peter Fish and Ross Osterman. Lyrics by Ross Osterman and Peter Fish.
“Strange New Hunger” — is a duet / love song between Kay and the Creature. The song reprises during the performance. Music by Gerard Alessandrini and Fred Barton. Lyrics by Gerard Alessandrini, Ross Osterman and Fred Barton.
“I left my heart and lungs and kidneys in the amazon.”
Sure, Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical isn’t the absolute best representation of the character, but it is kind of fun. The video is provided below and we’d love to know what you think so make sure to leave your comments below!
Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical starred Sandy Allen as Kay and Matt Ferrell as Gill-Man.
Fred Barton served as composer and co-lyricist, Gerard Alessandrini served as co-lyricist and co-director. Peter Fish provided additional music and Lynne Taylor-Corbett received final credit as choreographer and director. Jonathan Tolins was the scriptwriter, and the production was co-produced by Marc Routh and Broadway Attractions.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)