Review: MOBY: A Whale of a Tale, Harbourfront

by Lynn on September 21, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Pirate Life Theatre, 585 Queens Quay West, Toronto, Ont. Until Sept. 26.

Adapted from the Herman Melville novel: “Moby Dick”

Adapted by Annie Tuma and Lena Maripuu

Music/songs/performed by Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy collectively known as Moonfruits

Directed by Alexandra Montagnese

Costumes by Gabriel Vaillant


Lena Maripuu


Jamar Adams Thomson

Annie Tuma

Amaka Umeh

The engaging Pirate Life Theatre has taken Herman Melville’s huge tale of obsession, passion and revenge for a whale and the wild sea and tamed it to a manageable, but still exciting, musical that takes place on a pirate ship.

The ‘ship” is a black vessel with an imposing flag of the cross-bones and skull (never mind it was upside down when I saw the show), that floats and bobs in the water by the quay. The audience sits on land in chairs and watches the action unfold on the boat.

Captain Ahab (Amaka Umeh) is obsessed with Moby because on a previous whaling voyage Moby bit off the leg of Captain Ahab and he has hunted Moby ever since for revenge. This voyage is no different. The crew believe they are going whaling for blubber to fill their coffers. Captain Ahab has a different idea but he tells his crew only after they set said. Three years later they are sill hunting Moby, but Captain Ahab is sure they will find him because he has meticulously charted Moby’s trail for years. Obsession is a terrible thing.

Director Alexandra Montagnese keeps the action moving swiftly on the boat and there is clever use of a motorized floating device beside the boat as well. When they spot Moby there is an interesting way of suggesting his size and closeness to the boat. While all the characters are microphone, I found the introduction of Ishmael (Annie Tuma) confusing because we heard Ishmael before we saw him as the famous line: “Call me Ishmael” was given as the character was arriving way out of view. It’s important we see the character before he says that important line for context and clarity.

The wonderful Amaka Umeh is a formidable Captain Ahab: obsessed, driven, blinkered and single-minded to capture that creature who took his leg.

Much of the story-telling was taken over by the lilting, atmospheric music of Moonfruits. Lovely work.

Moby: A Whale of a Tale is an easy outing for the family to familiarize them with this classic book, at picturesque Harbourfront.

Pirate Life Theatre presents:

Plays until Sept. 26.

Running Time: 1 hour.

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