As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and await the release of the album for MacGyver The Musical in January, we thought now would be a good time to take a deep dive into the creation of the show and those behind it as a ‘thank you’ to, well, YOU, the world of Mac fans who’ve made all of this possible!
MacGyver The Musical has music and lyrics by Peter Lurye, book by Kate Chavez, Robin Holloway, Lindsey Hope Pearlman, and Lee David Zlotoff, based on the TV show created by Lee over 37 years ago!
The musical show is set in November 1989, when the cold war is at a fever pitch. The President of the United States receives some troubling intel: Helmut Heimlich, the dictator of East Germany, is planning to invade the city of West Berlin, surrounded by the Berlin Wall, and wipe it off the map four days from now! Realizing this could trigger World War III, the President enlists MacGyver to infiltrate East Berlin, find a way to stop the invasion without violence, and save the world from certain destruction. Through 16 original songs, and in an interactive and immersive audience experience, MacGyver The Musical celebrates the kind of grit it takes to survive in troubling times and is a blast from the past that the whole family can enjoy.
It was 2011 when MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff had the idea of turning the iconic TV series into a musical and– in an innovative twist worthy of MacGyver– wanted to cast the lead role of Mac out of the audience in every performance! Thinking this idea was so crazy it just might actually work, Lee enlisted composer and lyricist Peter Lurye, who started writing songs for the show. And though they worked on a few songs and a book for about a year, the pieces didn’t click and so they decided to put it aside.
Then in 2019, when the MacGyver reboot TV series on CBS was beginning its fourth season, Lee, an Executive Producer on the series, thought the time was ripe to try again. He found collaborators Kate Chavez, Robin Holloway and Lindsey Pearlman to co-write the book and, this time, have Peter finish all the songs. That led to a workshop production in Telluride March, 2020 just before the pandemic put the whole theater world on hold for two years. And, as soon as it was once again safe to return to the theater, the show had a world premiere at the prestigious Stages Theater in Houston in February of 2022 which received rave reviews, sell-out crowds, the Houston Press Theater Award for Best New Musical, and standing ovations for a host of great audience MacGyvers of all ages and genders!
Peter Lurye, the composer and lyricist, started in children’s television, writing the theme songs and scores for such classic shows as Eureeka’s Castle, Gullah Gullah Island, and the Magic School Bus. It was a colleague from Eureeka’s Castle who first recommended Peter to Lee, which eventually led to Peter working on the show, his first musical for the stage. Peter characterizes his musical style as embracing “playfulness, some silliness, but hopefully, heart” and drew inspiration from his family’s history.
Kate Chavez – co-writer of the book, co-director of the workshop production, and assistant director of the premiere – co-founded Up and Down Theatre in Santa Fe with Robin and Lindsey. Kate is a native of New Mexico who teaches in addition to acting, writing and directing.
Robin Holloway, co-writer of the book and musical director of the workshop and premiere, has done everything from playing jazz piano to acting in Better Call Saul. He started working on the book with Kate and Lindsey, but eventually became Peter’s right hand man in developing the music. He believes that MacGyver is a principle: “the wherewithal and presence of mind to be in the moment: to be able to show up with nothing and make it happen”. And that principle is especially important in the world of theater and can “speak to everyone”.
Lindsey Pearlman, co-writer of the book, has worked as cast and crew in film and on Broadway.
She was happy to be the right person in the right place at the right time along with Kate and Robin to become Lee’s collaborators. She calls MacGyver The Musical “the most memorable and awesome experience” of her career so far. She praises “the real musical inside” the fun and the “surprising” and “very deep resonance” of the show’s story.
Last but not least, Lee Zlotoff, co-writer of the book and creator of the original MacGyver TV series, previously wrote and directed the independent feature film Spitfire Grill, which won the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was later adapted into an award-winning musical that has enjoyed over 700 productions to date. Lee wanted to create a MacGyver project that, like the first TV series, the whole family or community could enjoy together while offering anyone with the gumption a shot of actually being MacGyver– even if only for one show. And he’s beyond thankful for all the hard work and creativity of his collaborators, the audience Macs, and everyone who has contributed to making the show such an unqualified success. But his deepest thanks is for all the fans of MacGyver around the world who have made Mac a global meme, a verb in the dictionary, and a symbol for the resourcefulness and creativity in all of us…because these days, we need it more than ever!
So, from all of us, here’s wishing all of you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving!
“You never know what’s going to happen… It’s real live theater!”