Sometimes a show is simply Fun with a capital ‘F’. It doesn’t need analysing or being examined to work out what the Director was thinking when he put a purple light over the hero’s head. It just needs to be seen, experienced and enjoyed for its own sake. One such show is Moby Dick! The Musical which has returned to London at the Union Theatre after 25 years.
The plot is very simple. The pupils of St Godley’s Academy for Girls under the wise guidance of headmistress Dame Rhoda Hottie (Anton Stephens) decide to raise money by putting on a musical version of Herman Melville’s completely unmusical novel “Moby Dick”. Using a Book put together by Dinah Sores (Rachel Anne Rayham) and a cast drawn from the girls and some of the male members of staff, the friends and relatives sit back to be entertained with the story of Captain Ahab, (Dame Hottie), Ishmael (Dinah Sore), Quuequeg – Charity Case (Perola Congo), First Mate Starbuck – Amanda Poker (Laura Mansell), Second Mate Stubb – Fonda Cox (Aimee Hodnett), Pip the Cabin Boy – Miss Buster Cherry (Glen Facey), Elijah – Wayne Kerr (Grant McConvey), Tashtego – Daisy Mae Blow (Rebekah Lowings), male ensemble, the handsome Coffin – Mr Earl Lee Riser (Sam Barrett) and last but by no means least, Ahab’s Wife, Esta played by the diva of diva’s Miss Mona Lott (Brenda Edwards).
I will start off by admitting I really loved Moby Dick! The Musical which was fun from the start. I will also say that the book by Robert Longden, and music and lyrics by Longden and Hereward Kaye, have produced probably one of the maddest shows I have ever seen. I really loved the idea of a show within a show and thought that this theme was beautifully laid out – even to the point of having a programme within a programme (beautiful work by whoever was behind putting that together). In fact, the whole experience took me back to school productions when I was a child. Even the school tie worn by the pupils of St Godley’s was the same as the one from my old primary school, Porters Grange in Southend – nice work by Costume Designer Juliette Craft. Equally, congratulations have to go to Set Designer Anna Kelsey, who has created a very realistic school gym performing space, complete with climbing frame, basketball hoop, and a very flexible wooden horse. Director/Choreographer Andrew Wright has crafted a frenetically fast-paced show that barely gives anyone time to breathe and the cast are really committed to the dual roles they each play in both St Godley’s and Moby Dick.
A quick word about the band under Musical Director Lee Freeman. Even though I was sat by them, and I’m not sure how they did it but the band didn’t overpower the signing which was really good for me. In fact, for a five-piece band, they managed to sound much larger and the quality was extremely good.
Turning to the cast, and Anton Stephens shines in the roles of Dame Rhoda and Captain Ahab and totally dominates the stage whenever he/she appears. However, nobody can beat Brenda Edwards’ small but perfectly performed appearance as Esta, who is not only the diva of divas but has a fantastic voice that filled the Union with a truly wonderful sound. Of the other characters, I loved Rachel Anne Rayham as Ishmael and the completely camp, as a row of tents performance of Glen Facey who managed to make Pip the Cabin Boy both endearing and great fun to watch. Finally, on the cast front, I couldn’t hold my head up in Soho if I didn’t mention the Chippendales moment – totally unnecessary but, from an artistic point of view, a superb edition to the evening.
If I wanted to be picky, the pace of the show was a bit too fast at times with so much going on that it was difficult to keep up with everything that was happening, and by having the audience seating configured as an ‘L’ shape, the cast were at times having to play to one side or another.
My feeling is that Moby Dick! The Musical is going to be a bit of a Marmite show for some people. Fortunately, this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed it. There are no big themes to think about, no subconscious messages being transmitted and, at times, no real sense as to what is happening on the stage, but who cares? By the end of the show, I left the theatre with a massive grin on my face and a lightness of step that demonstrated to anyone looking that I had just had a wonderful night at the theatre.
Review by Terry Eastham
Not seen in the UK since 1992, saucy cult hit ‘Moby Dick! The Musical’ is back. Originally produced by Cameron Mackintosh, ‘Moby Dick! The Musical’ has ‘a book by Robert Longden and Hereward Kaye, music by Hereward Kaye and Robert Longden and lyrics by Robert Longden and Hereward Kaye.
The anarchic and nubile girls of St. Godley’s Academy for Young Ladies are in trouble! Money for the school has run out and it’s threatened with closure. Determined to save their school from bankruptcy, the resourceful girls, and their unflappable headmistress come up with a plan to keep the school afloat. Using whatever they can find, the girls mount an original production as a fundraiser – a musical version of Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, featuring their own headmistress in the coveted role of Captain Ahab.
This brand new production, staged for the show’s 25th Anniversary, is directed and choreographed by double Olivier Award nominee Andrew Wright.
MOBY DICK! THE MUSICAL
BOOK by Robert Longden & Hereward Kaye
MUSIC by Hereward Kaye & Robert Longden
LYRICS by Robert Longden & Hereward Kaye
PRODUCED by Amy Anzel in association with Matt Chisling
Headmistress / Ahab – Anton Stephans
Esta – Brenda Edwards
Ishmael – Rachel Anne Rayham
Starbuck – Laura Mansell
Stubb – Aimee Hodnett
Pip – Glen Facey
Coffin – Sam Barrett
Tashtigo – Rebekah Lowings
Elijah / Cpt Gardiner – Grant Mcconvey
Quuequeg – Perola Congo
Director/ Choreographer – Andrew Wright
Musical Director – Lee Freeman
Set Designer – Anna Kelsey
Costume Designer – Juliette Craft
Lighting Designer – Tim Deiling
Associate Director – Bryan Hodgson
Associate Choreographer – Danny Douglas
Associate Musical Director – Anthony Winter
Sound Design – Autograph
Casting Director – Adam Braham
Moby Dick! The Musical
Performance Dates Wednesday 12th October – Saturday 12th November 2016
Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday matinees, 2.30pm
Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, London SE1 0LX