Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Moby Dick"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Moby Dick"

Music by Doug Katsaros
Libretto by Mark St. Germain
Directed and Musical Staging by Rick Lombardo
Music Director Janet Roma
Additional Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Scenic Design by Kristin Loeffler
Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner, Jr.
Costume Design by Toni Bratton Elliott
Properties by Melissa Porterfield
Production Stage Manager Jessica Rae Chartoff

Stubb...................................................................Jim Ansart
Queequeg........................................................Dana B. Black
Pip........................................................Cyrus Akeem Brooks
Flask/Boomer.............................................Geoffrey P. Burns
Gabriel/Crew........................................................Scott Davis
Peter Coffin/Elijah/Fedallah/Crew.................Brian De Lorenzo
Mapple/Carpenter/crew.......................................Job Emerson
Tashtego...........................................................Nathan Gehan
Starbuck.........................................................Michael Kreutz
Ishmael.................................................................Robin Lister
Bildad/Mayhew/crew.........................................Sean McGuirk
Peleg/Captain of The Rachel/Dr. Bunger/crew...Brad Peloquin
Ahab....................................................................Mark Peters

Orchestra

Violin 1.................Nicky Sanders
Violin 2...................Mads Tolling
Viola..................Aurora Manuele
Cello.......................Peter Walden
Bass..............................Ed Kraus
Piano/Keyboards.......Janet Roma

If you've read Herman Melville's novel, or even if you've just read the increasingly idolatrous critical effusions about it, the "American Opera" based on it will be a joy. Librettist Mark St. Germain has zeroed in on every important scene or theme in the book till the show resembles a kind of musical Cliff's Notes to the original. Doug Katsaros' score elevates and emphasizes these highlights of what has been nominated as the great American novel --- but it's Rick Lombardo's masterful staging that brings it all to life in the round at the New Repertory Theatre.

People unfamiliar with Melville's tale will learn as much here about the hard, superstition-ridden lives of sailormen out to find riches in hunting the whale. The dozen crewmen on the Pequod swarm all over the central mast, climbing to crow's-nests or rope-ladders of rigging, making whaleboats out of tiny benches crowded with oarsmen and harpooners, skinning whales and boiling blubber down into valuable whale oil, and peeling their eyes for first sight of the one white whale their ivory-legged Captain Ahab says will win a man the gold Doubloon nailed gleaming to the mast. A bit of costume and a new song transforms this crew into a double dozen hardy seamen at one time or another. But, as the Captain's obsession with Moby Dick flings their ship across the globe, some stand out.

The story begins with a man called Ishmael (Robin Lister) going almost unwillingly back to sea, and bunking with a huge Black harpooner named Queequeg (Dann B. Black), with First Mate Starbuck (Michael Kreutz) and Second Stubb (Jim Ansart) commanding their rowboats on the hunt. On land they hear Father Mapple (Job Emerson) sing a sermon about Jonah's eventual life as a good sailor obeying God's command. The ship's owners (Sean McGuirk & Brad Peloquin) sing more of money than much else, but once Ahab (Mark Peters) exhorts his crew to seek the nemesis he's sworn to slay, the three men on watch sing of the eerie whiteness of that whale.

The monotony of the seas is interrupted by a long, exhausting hornpipe danced by the young cabin-boy Pip (Cyrus Akeem Brooks) --- to lively choreography by Ilyse Robbins, doubtless. But poor Pip, swept overboard and addled by a night alone in the sea is haunted by strange dreams portending disasters as the first act ends.

In the second, the Pequod crosses paths with other whalers. In the first is a captain who also lost a limb to the white whale, replacing his hand with a hammer, and he and his ships' doctor out-Gilbert Sullivan in telling their jaunty tale. The Captain of the Rachel (Brad Peloquin) has a sadder tale however, of the captain's young boy in a fog-bound whale boat lost at sea. Ahab, implored to help search for him, instead sails in search of his deadly quarry. And it's here that Starbuck, defying all his Quaker upbringing, plans to shoot the old man to save them all from hell. Before he can, the white sperm whale himself arrives for the final battle in which the frenzied Ahab gets fouled in the harpoon-lines and so, lashed dead to the side of the beast he hated, rides the crazed whale as it smashes the Pequod itself sending every last man save Ishmael to a watery grave.

This is, to my mind, more lively and exciting than any opera, though in places there seems more singing than I expected from a musical. It is no more the book than that movie was, but a work in its own right, sung by a magnificent crew of agile actors, and staged with compelling vigor and excitement. Thar she blows --- a hit. A palpable hit!


"Moby Dick" (2 May - 3 June)
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS, MA
1 (617) 332-1646


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