Funds are low, and St. Godley's Girls' School is on the brink of being closed down. Only a pocket-picking musical can save it. Enter ... Herman Melville?
One can only speculate as to exactly what Robert Longden and Hereward Kaye were thinking when they conceptualized Moby Dick! The Musical -- "Pour me another, Frank," sounds likely -- but the students at Wilde Lake High School take the premise to heart and fuse it with a delicious insanity of their own to portray St. Godley's inspired theatrical production of Melville's classic. The musical's play within a play serves primarily to give itself a free pass in a cheeky and cheesy romp through Captain Ahab and the Pequod's relentless hunt for the great White Whale.
Like many of the featured performers in Moby Dick!, Matt DeCaro had the thorny task of handling two roles at once. His initial appearance as the bumbling, boisterous headmistress of St. Godley seemed ever to lurk within the decidedly manlier voice of his chief character, the monomaniacal Captain Ahab. DeCaro's fine balance of brooding intensity and physical comedy was perhaps best exemplified in the hilarious opening lines of "Can't Keep Out the Night," during which limbs danced independently of his unwilling body. Other characters, such as harpooner Queequeg (Maddie Lawrence) and Ahab's wife, Esta (Olivia Nagel), impressed with their vocal versatility, while Ishmael (Catie Hoffman) served as a bubbly, excited narrator throughout.
Despite its satiric underpinnings, the show retained an epic sense of scale, due in large part to the unified commitment of the ensemble. The ensemble moved throughout as though it shared one enthused pulse, which, even in numbers such as "Whale of a Tale" and "Heave Away" student-choreographed by Rachel Whitcomb, dropped nary a beat.
The crews beneath the deck at Wilde Lake likewise did an outstanding job of bringing life to the production. Particularly commendable was the props and effects work of Jen Medina-Gray, whose not-so-subtle nods to popular culture (a large American Idol sign sat in the background of a number) and management of such stunning effects as the rolling sea (a large net draped over ensemble members) were only a small part of the myriad props to be managed.
A performance that dared to tackle Moby Dick! required a mad and merry cast; Wilde Lake's was up to the task.
Shreyo Banerjee, a student at Glenelg Country School, reviewed "Moby Dick! The Musical" for the Cappies of Baltimore, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.