Theatre Review by DICK KEREKES
Jacksonville Entertainment 8/4/05

On stage at the Daytona Beach Community College is the final show of the summer season for Seaside Music Theater.

“Moby Dick, The Musical” is the funniest musical that I have ever seen done by SMT since I started covering their shows in l988. Beware and drink a lot of water before you attend, because you will laugh until you cry for the entire first act and you don’t want to risk dehydration!

Before I tell you all the hilarious details of this marvelous musical, get on the phone and make your reservations because the show will close on August 7th and it is one that you don’t want to miss.

This musical originated in London back in the l980’s and became somewhat of a cult favorite, like “Rocky Horror Show.” The humor was so British that it did not figure to do well in America, so the Robert Longden and Hereward Kaye musical was reworked or “Americanized” in a New York workshop by Musical Theater International’s Russell Ochocki.

The story goes like this: St. Godley’s Academy, an old school for girls, is having financial troubles and may have to close unless they can raise some money. One of the students, played by perky Katie Pees, has written a musical based on the Herman Melville novel “Moby Dick” and the girls, along with some of their boyfriends, decide to stage this singing extravaganza to save the school. To economize, they recycle items from old shows and you will see a pumpkin coach in one scene and a whole lot of hockey sticks in another.

The headmistress, Osborn Focht (in drag), plays the key role of Captain Ahab. Focht has a marvelous voice that he displays in abundance in songs that reflect a complete range of music that includes light opera, doo-wop songs and pop music of the recent past. Mr. Focht is also a fantastic comic actor and his performance alone is worth the price of admission.

I talked with Tory Ross, who plays Ahab’s wife, Esta. Imagine the comic style of Bette Midler and the vocal power of Ethel Merman and you have Ms. Ross. Tory was in the original workshop in New York and has been in two previous productions, and said that SMT Artistic Director Lester Malizia’s version is by far the funniest.

There is a lot of young new talent in this show, but I did recognize an old favorite, Mark Catlett in multiple roles. Mark was the remarkable dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors” and will return to SMT in January to reprise his role of LeFou in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Frank Viveros brought down the house as Father Mapple as he blessed the sailors as they set out to capture old Moby.

Oh, yes there is a Moby Dick that makes several appearances, mostly above the stage to talk or sing to Ahab (he has a great voice for a whale). Then there is the dramatic final showdown on stage, when a very reduced white whale does battle with Ahab, and you know the rest of the story.

Muscial Director Kevin Wallace led the full orchestra through the wonderful score and you will actually leave the theatre humming a song. The title song, “Moby Dick, The Musical,” is hit parade material.

Scenic Designer Ken Goldstein and Lighting Designer Andrew White make this a visual treat with much of the action taking place on the deck of a ship and in Ahab’s revolving cabin. Brian O’Keefe’s costume designs are delightful, from dancing lobsters and fish to swashbuckling clothes for the guys and the gals.

A sign in the lobby warns audiences that the material is adult, but there are no words that are objectionable. There are a lot of double entendres that are done so straight-faced, you may miss some of them. Director Malizia has loaded this show with sight gags of every conceivable kind, some very subtle, so pay attention.

Just a little side note to give you something to talk about at the coffee break: A very famous coffeehouse chain is named after the first mate in Melville’s tale. Do you know the name? You get a gold star and a fish if your answered “Starbucks.”

It is very obvious that choreographer Kate Gelabert and the entire cast had great fun putting this show together. The energy and enthusiasm of the entire cast is sustained until the end.

This may be absolutely the funniest show I have ever seen, at least I cannot recall when I laughed for two hours straight. It is an extraordinary evening at the theater that produces fun at such a frantic pace, it will leave you breathless at times. Be prepared to join in the standing ovation at the end.