Moby Dick! The Musical at The Union Theatre is a fun and light-hearted night out, albeit a performance unsure of its purpose.
Set as a school play in the financially troubled girls’ school of St Godley’s Academy, it was difficult to know whether the play was intentionally amateurish or not. At times the ‘mistakes’ made by the students were overblown and cheesy; however the audience perceived them as cute rather than irritating. The small and intimate crowd felt like that of a school hall, and the youthful actors portrayed naïve and cheeky students excellently.
In an unusual version of Herman Melville’s classic novel, there were some powerful individual performances, especially from the sassy Rachel Anne Rayham playing Ishmael, in an interesting version of Herman Melville’s classic novel. One could be forgiven for thinking that it would have a feminist angle due to the setting; however Captain Ahab, the lead, was still played by a man – Anton Stephans. He produced a witty and strong rendition of the tragic hero, although it seemed unnecessary for Stephans to be playing a headmistress playing Ahab. It seemed like a cheap way of getting laughs, and did not add value to the interpretation.
There were some good moments and catchy musical numbers which were entertaining and amusing. This production had the feel of a pantomime, suitable for young kids, however there were also multiple sexual references which targeted a completely different demographic. It certainly did a good job of making a largely complex novel accessible; however one left the theatre feeling that little had been gained other than a few shallow laughs.
Overall, Moby Dick! The Musical was a feel-good piece of musical theatre. The enthusiasm and warmth of the actors rubbed off on the audience and by the end, everyone was having a good time. A simple five piece band crammed into the corner blasted out memorable tracks, and, after some encouragement, the whole crowd was on their feet dancing on the stage for the finale.
The Union Theatre has provided a spirited production which brings everyone into a friendly setting, either for older people to remember the days of school, or for younger people to cringe over the inane reality of their school lives.
- By Herman Melville (original novel)
- Book, Music and Lyrics: Robert Longden & Hereward Kaye
- Starring: Anton Stephans, Brenda Edwards, Rachel Anne Rayham
- Union Theatre, London
- Until 12 November 2016
- Review by Joshua Korber Hoffman (15)
- 20 October 2016