Jim Christian grew up watching Gilligan’s Island, a 1960s sitcom. He recalls it as a story about seven castaways consisting of six fools and one professor. Christian made a connection with the professor character from the beginning.
“That’s who I want to be. I want to be the person who has solutions, the person who can help, who can turn on the light and take people into a point of success and action and achievement,” he said.
Christian found that role as a musical theater professor at Weber State University. After his 27 years of a successful career, Christian’s students describe him as that kind of successful leader.
He is retiring at the end of this semester. But before he goes, he is directing one final show, “Give My Regards,” a musical theater extravaganza, featuring alumni and music from the past 27 years of musical theater at Weber State University.
The show will be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children and $7 for current university students. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Jim and Jerrilyn Grills Christian Scholarship for Excellence in Musical Theatre.
Christian’s love of theater started when he was 5 years old and was cast in a church play. Christian got more heavily involved in theater during his time at Murray High School. After that, he attended the University of Utah for his undergraduate degree.
When Christian started college he was a broadcast journalism major at first. Fellow students in one of his classes found out he played the piano and they needed someone to accompany them for an audition.
“So I got dragged over to that and ended up actually getting cast in that production because they were desperate for men,” he said.
Christian then picked up a musical theater minor, but eventually he stuck with his passion for theater and earned his MFA in acting at Illinois State University.
“It was an evolutionary process,” he said, smiling at the memory.
His first big directing project was in his senior year in undergraduate school. It was a play by Tom Stoppard called “The Real Inspector Hound.”
Christian learned that being a good musical theater teacher and director means being “someone who is willing to take the time and the effort to get to know the work that they’re doing but also get to know the people with whom they are working with and to respect them and to trust them and have the communication skills to bring everybody together.”
Jason Baldwin, assistant director for Christian’s last production, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” says Christian really has been “the best mentor. He’s always willing to answer any of my questions. He’s come to me with ideas to bounce off of me. It’s been a really great learning experience.”
Baldwin says that one of the biggest things that he learned from his time working under Christian was being patient.
During his time at WSU, Christian has enjoyed “working with students and watching their growth, their development, their breakthroughs, and seeing connections happen in their heads, seeing them take knowledge and apply it and then go off to have successful careers.”
Once he retires, he said his first order of business is going to be an excessive amount of sleep followed in June by becoming a grandfather for first time which he is more than ecstatic about. Other than that, he says he doesn’t know, and that is the most exciting part.
Christian’s replacement has been selected, and Christian says he expects that person will be a “terrific fit.”
Daniel Garner, stage manager for “Nice Work,” said Christian is leaving big shoes to fill.
“Jim has kind of set the bar when it comes to musical theater teachers. He is wonderful,” he said. “He’s always smiling, he’s always happy, he has so many positive
things to say and he’s always encouraging and willing to assist you.
“I’m not sure yet if anybody can really surmount that. I suppose we’ll have to see. I’m not sure what to expect.”
For more information on “Give My Regards,” visit weberstatetickets.com.