An airplane crash leaves four survivors in a
mysterious paradise.
An inspiring musical for the whole family.
by James Hilton
Performed in 
June 2006
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In 1933, James Hilton’s novel of adventure and inspiration “Lost Horizon” took the world by storm. It was an instant best seller, and it became the very first pocket book ever published, selling for twenty-five cents. A few years later it became an award winning Frank Capra film, in a rare instance of a movie actually improving on the original story. It was also brought to the stage and played on Broadway.

It has been re-filmed and re-written for the stage several times, and there are those who even insist that the current television hit show “LOST” is actually a version of Lost Horizon. Dale Gutzman and Off the Wall Theatre brought a new musical version of this timeless classic to Milwaukee.

The story concerns four travelers whose hijacked airplane crash lands in a remote portion if Himalayan mountains. They are rescued and taken to a strange isolated Tibetan monastery called Shangri-la, where mysterious and miraculous things begin to happen.

Director/adaptor Dale Gutzman has long been fascinated with Tibet. He made a journey there in 2004, and it so happens that “Lost Horizon” was the very first play in which he acted, way back when he was in high school. These two diverse incidents melted together initiating this attempt to bring Hilton’s story to the stage.

The play promotes peace and understanding between different cultures and religions, It has strong anti-war sentiment, and it explores the purpose and value of Art itself. Gutzman and music director Ernest Brusubardis used songs by Burt Bacharach from the unsuccessful 1973 film version, a film in which the music was praised, but the alterations to the plot and the limp direction were universally condemned. Gutzman placed the songs in his adaptation of the original book and stage play.

The talented cast included Joe Fransee as Mallinson, the young adventurer and British diplomat, Jill Hollander as Lo-Tsen, the Chinese girl with whom he falls in love, Jeremy Welter as Chang, the somewhat sinister Head Monk of Shangri-la, Sharon Rise as Miss Brinklow, a missionary searching for her own truth, Michael Koscinski as Barnard, an international businessman with a secret past, Heather Reynolds as Helen, the exotic music teacher at Shangri-la, Gutzman as Conway, His Majesty’s Counsel from Baskul, and Lawrence Lukasavage as the High Lama. Kristin Pagenkopf provided her dancing skills to the show as well. The songs in LOST HORIZON included show stopping production numbers and beautiful ballads, but the music is always secondary to the ideas in this thought provoking theatre work.

Off The Wall’s technical wizard David Roper turned the intimate theatre space into a Buddhist Temple, using many of the decorations Gutzman brought back from his Tibetan journey.