Moby Dick. The Musical?

by wjw on September 20, 2010

So the other night we went to see Moby Dick: the Musical.

No.  Really.  Though in my defense I didn’t know it was a musical when I said I’d go.

The production was held in a former filling station on Barelas, which was the neighborhood I lived in when I was just starting out and had no money.  There were no props.  There was no scenery.  There was no orchestra.  And nothing resembling a white whale.

I had a terrific time.  If I’d been wearing socks, the production would have knocked them off.

Because there were no props, the actors had to be very good at miming things like rowing whaleboats, hurling harpoons, and hauling tacks and sheets.  They had to conjure up through words the things that the audience wasn’t actually seeing, and they had to be able to handle reams of Melville’s quasi-Biblical prose.  They did indeed succeed in all these things.

The songs weren’t written for the play, but were chanties from the period.  And they matched the type of chanty to the type of work: they sang a capstan chanty when they mimed stamping round a capstan; they sang a halyard chanty when they mimed hauling a halyard. The miming was sufficiently fine that the cast made it clear what it was like to cut up and render a dead whale, even for the audience members who didn’t know.

The production ran a bit long; but then so does the novel.  Folks with the appropriate glandular bias might appreciate the sight of an all-male crew with an insufficient number of shirts between them.

Check it out, if you’re in the neighborhood.  The play runs Thursday-Sunday this next weekend, at The Filling Station, 1024 4th St. SW, “located on historic, pre-1937 Route 66.”

NOTE: Because the question came up after the play ended, I looked it up, and indeed the Starbuck’s coffee chain is named after the chief mate of the Pequod.    In fact the chain was almost called Pequod.  (I rather thought the logo of the mermaid sort of gave it away.)

And, because I couldn’t stop googling once I’d started, I am happy to report that the name “Starbuck” originates from an English village called Starbek, from the Norse storr bekkr, meaning “Big River.”

Haul away, Big River!  And bring yer lattes wi’ ye!

Dave Bishop September 20, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Sounds like a terrific theatrical experience, Walter – but is it ‘chanty’ or ‘shanty’? The Liverpool sailor and writer, Stan Hugill wrote some seminal books on sailors’ worksongs and he titled one of them ‘Shanties from the Seven Seas’. The first folk album I ever bought was ‘A Sailor’s Garland’ recorded by Ewan MacColl and A.L.Lloyd – which was a collection of ‘shanties’ and ‘forebitters’ (songs which sailors sang for relaxation rather than work).

On the other hand perhaps I’m just being nerdishly pedantic! Or is it a tom-art-oh/tom-ay-toh type of thing?

wjw September 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I had always been told it was spelled “chanty” but pronounced “shanty.” There are a lot of nautical terms with variant spellings, for example halyard vs. halliard, xebec vs. chebec, “taken aback on an iron coast in a Force Eight gale” vs “Oh fuck, we’re screwed!”

Dave Bishop September 21, 2010 at 10:40 am

Point taken, Walter. Love your last example!

Foxessa September 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I see collections and articles all the time with both spellings, working as we so often do in water – coastal regions, whether here on the Atlantic coast and Chesapeake, or on the Gulf. Up to the individual, evidently.

The production sounds splendid.

Love, C.

Ralf the Dog September 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I am glad to know the place was not named after Battle Star Galactica. Not that I care all that much. I am very allergic to Coffee and can not enter the store.

Note: last time I was exposed to coffee in large quantities, I wound up in the hospital. After they ran blood work on me, they thought I had leukemia.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Contact Us | Terms of User | Trademarks | Privacy Statement

Copyright © 2010 WJW. All Rights Reserved.