Moby, A Whale of a Tale
Pirate Life, Toronto
Raiza Dela Pena
I must apologize for the fact this review appears late and the show has closed. Through my own fault and not timing traffic, I missed the opening night performance. I finally saw the last Friday night show; however, life got in the way and I was not able to get the review posted until now.
I’m also sorry to say that I never read ‘Moby Dick’ during my undergraduate courses in English Literature, but seeing this production made me want to tackle one of the great works of American literature sometime very soon.
‘Moby: A Whale of a Tale’ takes place in 1840. Captain Ahab (a fearlessly ferocious performance by Amaka Umeh) is onboard the whaling ship The Pequod looking for the great white whale, Moby Dick, who bit off his leg on a previous voyage. Ahab is looking for his revenge against the great mammal. Members of the crew who are hired to travel with Ahab believe they will be hunting for whale blubber which, according to the Programme Notes, was a huge business to make oil to light homes and streetlights at night. Captain Ahab had a different view of how things should run onboard, but only told the crew what his intent was after they had set sail. Three years later, the ship and crew continue to look for Moby at Ahab’s insistence as he has charted carefully the whale’s trail in the water.
The audience sat on a floating dock either in Muskoka chairs or on a bench at the back in front of an appropriate dark, mysterious and ominous looking whaling ship of The Pequod. A smaller boat is also used a couple of times to signify plot action occurring next to the Pequod. The audience was told if they didn’t care to sit on the dock, then they could return to chairs on dry land.
I certainly hope this ‘Moby’ returns for another engagement next summer as I thoroughly admired this fanciful musical adaptation which accomplished two things for me: a) I was a kid again completely immersed in a wondrous sea-faring story complete with vengeful pirates and rough waters b) the literary adult side within me was also made acutely aware of how a dominant obsession and meticulous revenge to find the great white whale make unforgettable characters of classic fiction.
So much to enjoy about this production. Clever song lyrics and tuneful period musical melodies from Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy (Moonfruits) nicely underscored and heightened the tension in some of the key plot moments. Director Alexandra Montagnese maintained a snappily energetic pacing momentum with some entertaining performances.
Annie Tuma is a bold Ishmael who becomes entranced with the wild adventure of the lure of the sea in the opening song ‘Can You Hear the Call of the Sea?’. Lena Maripuu’s brave first mate Starbuck impressively stands up at one point to Ahab’s obsessive emotional outbursts. Jamar Adams-Thompson’s delightful Queequeg adds that bit of saucy and unrefined humour which effectively balances the hell-bent intensity of Ahab’s destructive compulsions of Moby. It was lovely to hear the harmonized singing of the performers throughout the performance.
‘Moby: A Whale of a Tale’ adapted from the Herman Melville novel: “Moby Dick”
Adapted by Annie Tuma and Lena Maripuu
Produced by Annie Tuma
Music arrangers and writers Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy known as Moonfruits, Lena Maripuu, and Annie Tuma.
Directed by Alexandra Montagnese
Costumes by Gabriel Vaillant
Cast: Lena Maripuu, Moonfruits, Jamar Adams Thomson, Annie Tuma, Amaka Umeh
To learn more about Pirate Life, please visit www.piratelife.ca. Production played on a floating dock at 585 Queens Quay West, Toronto