Moby Dick! The Musical
A saucy musical of high camp, this whale of a tale is overflowing with double entendres.
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

Full Synopsis

Act One

A scene of general chaos. Ishmael sits at the piano; Pip, the school's security guard, has been gagged and tied to a chair; students play basketball and throw paper airplanes. The Janitor enters and asks Ishmael to start choir practice. Ishmael plays as the school's Headmistress enters, greeted by the girls singing an obligatory anthem to St. Godley's ("School Hymn"). The Headmistress informs her students that due to bankruptcy, the school will close at the end of the term. The girls, determined not to return to their horrible, boring lives outside of St. Godley's, vow to save it. They decide to put on Ishmael's recently penned musical version of Moby Dick as a fundraiser. The Headmistress passes out parts, making herself Captain Ahab ("Moby Dick").

Substantial time has passed. It is now opening night of the show. A nervous Ishmael takes the stage and sings of her passion for the sea, the magic of the water and her love of adventure ("I Live and Breathe"). She lands on the docks of Nantucket, where we meet the crew of the Pequod, a whaling ship recently returned from a hunting trip gone bad: Captain Ahab lost his leg to a savage whale ("In Old Nantucket"). Ishmael, who has been looking for affordable lodgings for the evening, finds an available bed at the Spouter Inn.

Meanwhile, Esta, Ahab's wife, waits fretfully for her husband's safe return ("A Man Happens"). He arrives, accompanied by Pip and a chest overflowing with gold ("Ahab's Homecoming"). He then proceeds to break bad news to her – not only has he lost his leg to the rogue whale, Moby Dick, but his manhood as well. He will not be able to father her children. Esta inappropriately giggles when he reveals his ivory stump as the other guests at Ahab's homecoming follow suit. Humiliated, Ahab denounces Esta – who immediately jumps out of a window to her watery death – and then returns to the safety of his cabin aboard the Pequod. Later that evening, Pip attends to a very drunk Ahab. While he pledges his devotion to the Captain, Ahab pines for his lost Esta ("Love Will Always").

At the Spouter Inn, Peter Coffin, the innkeeper, introduces Ishmael to the crew of the Pequod. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when Ishmael learns that he is to lodge the night with Queequeg, their cannibalistic crewmate who's off selling shrunken heads. But Queequeg proves him wrong, and they become fast friends ("Primitive").

Over at the Pequod, Ahab has passed out from far too much rum. Pip prays for peace in his soul, but Ahab only dreams of Esta. In his dream, she tells him that he belongs to the sea and Ahab awakens with a start, determined to kill the rogue Moby Dick ("A Sinking Man"). The next morning, Ishmael and Queequeg go to hear Father Mapple deliver his Sunday sermon and to seek blessings before their voyage ("Jonah Fell"). They set off in search of a ship that will engage them as crew. Ishmael picks the Pequod ("Pequod"). As they are about to sign up, Elijah, the crazy lackey with one arm, tells them that Ahab and his ship are cursed ("At Sea One Day"). Undeterred by these foreboding warnings, Ishmael and Queequeg find Starbuck and sign up anyway. Finally, on Christmas Day, they set sail ("Building America").

Act Two

We are brought up to speed with Ishmael on the Pequod, which has successfully weathered a winter of storms; Pip and the crew are relaxed and lively as the boat approaches the equator ("Deck Dance"). After a year, a crazed Ahab appears from his cabin. He proffers a gold dubloon, claiming it belongs to the crewman who spots the great white whale that he seeks. Ishmael climbs into the crow's nest and spies, instead, a herd of black whales. Ahab decides that they will hunt while waiting to find the great Moby Dick ("Heave Away").

Ahab appears on the deck to examine the day's kill. Growing weary of Ahab's increasing delusions, Starbuck confronts Ahab about his personal obsession. Ahab agrees and acknowledges his obsession, but feels that he cannot resist it ("Can't Keep out the Night"). Back in the crew's quarters, Starbuck tries to rally the men to mutiny against their insane Captain and vows to kill him ("Whale of a Tale"). However, at the last minute, Starbuck cannot bring himself to do it.

Later that night, haunted by the voices of Moby Dick and his deceased, slightly decomposed wife, Esta, Ahab sleepwalks around his cabin. He is convinced that they are nearing the great whale ("Love Will Always – Reprise"). Starbuck appears from the shadows and tries to convince Ahab to turn his ship around and go home. At that moment, Ishmael spots an English whaling ship. Captain Gardiner boards the Pequod, proclaiming that he, too, has been hot on the trail of a great white whale but has lost his crew and family in the process ("The Rachel"). Gardiner retreats to his ship as the crew braces for a storm. Pip is tragically killed when he is blown overboard, yet Ahab madly presses on ("Shadows of the Deep").

The next morning, despite the calm seas, the crew is convinced that the ship is cursed. Queequeg casts bones on the deck and prophesies his own death ("Bones"). When he goes into one of his usual trances, Flask tries to steal all of his money. Ishmael comes to Queequeg's defense as a fight ensues. Ahab emerges on deck to break things up but smells a strange odor: it is Moby Dick. The crew madly harpoons the whale, but Moby Dick eludes them ("Heave Two"). At last, the whale rams the ship, and as the crew swims for their lives, Ahab submits to Moby Dick. Only Ishmael, floating on Queequeg's coffin, survives. The next day, he is rescued by The Rachel.

With both the voyage and story over, the cast jumps off the set, joyfully congratulating each other on a job well done. The Headmistress enters in an outrageous gown with two suitcases bursting with cash. She hands off one suitcase to each security guard, proclaims that the school has been saved and everyone celebrates ("Moby Dick Finale").

← Back to Moby Dick! The Musical
Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Headmistress / Captain Ahab
The Headmistress is a stern and uptight ruler over the academy. Played in drag with fearless confidence. Doubles as Captain Ahab.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 55
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: F2
The story's narrator, she is a goody two-shoes who everyone picks on. An earnest, but nerdy, musician and student.
Gender: female
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: A3
A boy-crazy hussy and the smart aleck of the group. Doubles as Ahab's wife.
Gender: female
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: F3
The stern and strong girl that the others look up to. She is very Christian, upright and fair.
Gender: female
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3
The mystical, strange, savage harpooner who is tender and kind underneath it all. A cannibal of sorts.
Gender: female
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Elijah / Pierre / Janitor
As Elijah, a wacky, one-armed crew member of the Pequod who is a gossipmonger spreading rumors. Doublings include: Pierre and Janitor.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 45
Vocal range top: Eb4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Father Mapple / Flask
As Mapple, a flamboyant, revival-type preacher. As Flask, a crew member on the Pequod who tries to steal Queequeg's money.
Gender: male
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: Ab4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Gardiner / Dagoo
As Gardiner, Captain of the Rachel with a penchant for classical comedy. Doubles as Dagoo.
Gender: male
Age: 14 to 18
Vocal range top: B4
Vocal range bottom: A2
The school's puny security guard and cabin boy aboard the Pequod. He is smaller and weaker than the others.
Gender: male
Age: 18 to 25
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: G2
Sailors; Shrunken Heads; Wives; Heathens; Ghosts
Full Song List
Moby Dick! The Musical: School Hymn
Moby Dick! The Musical: Moby Dick
Moby Dick! The Musical: I Live And Breathe
Moby Dick! The Musical: In Old Nantucket
Moby Dick! The Musical: A Man Happens
Moby Dick! The Musical: Ahab's Homecoming
Moby Dick! The Musical: Love Will Always
Moby Dick! The Musical: Primitive
Moby Dick! The Musical: A Sinking Man
Moby Dick! The Musical: Jonah Fell
Moby Dick! The Musical: Pequod
Moby Dick! The Musical: At Sea One Day
Moby Dick! The Musical: Building America
Moby Dick! The Musical: Moby Dick (Reprise)
Moby Dick! The Musical: Deck Dance/Death To Moby/Heave Away
Moby Dick! The Musical: Can't Keep Out The Night
Moby Dick! The Musical: Whale Of A Tale
Moby Dick! The Musical: Love Will Always (Reprise)
Moby Dick! The Musical: The Rachel
Moby Dick! The Musical: Shadows Of The Deep
Moby Dick! The Musical: Bones
Moby Dick! The Musical: Heave 2
Moby Dick! The Musical: Death Of Ahab
Moby Dick! The Musical: Finale!

Show History


Having become involved with the restoration of Oxford's Old Fire Station Theatre, Cameron Mackintosh sought a new musical to inaugurate its reopening. Impressed by an audio tape sent to him by Longden, Mackintosh offered him £25,000 to stage what was then called Moby Dick: A Whale of a Tale. Originally an intimate piece with a cast of twelve, performing with an upright piano, it became a greatly expanded version featuring a troupe of thirty and a six-piece band. The end result was Moby Dick! The Musical, a madcap romp with veteran cabaret star Tony Monopoly playing the Headmistress/Captain Ahab in drag, that immediately developed a cult following among the university students.


Moby Dick! The Musical has a book by Robert Longden, and music and lyrics by Longden and Hereward Kaye.

A mixture of high camp, music hall-style smut, and wild anachronism overflowing with double entendres, the show focuses on the girls of St. Godley's Academy for Young Ladies who, determined to save the institution from bankruptcy, decide to stage Herman Melville's classic novel in the school's swimming pool.

Following the restoration of Oxford's Old Fire Station Theatre, Cameron Macintosh chose to pproduce the musical as the inaugural production of the restored space. Then, after this stint at Oxford, one of Moby Dick! The Musical's first venues was aboard Ki Longfellow's Old Profanity Showboat where, after a slow start, it quickly became sold out.

Mackintosh next decided the show was suited for a full-fledged West End production, and in March 1992, he transferred it to the Piccadilly Theatre.  Despite an increasingly appreciative audience and nightly ovations, the musical failed to find its audience quickly enough and the economics of the large venue forced it to close after four months. Such was its public appeal, but Cameron later recalled that the announcement of closure sent audience reaction into orbit, and it barnstormed out of the West End as if it were one of the greatest hits of all time.

Over the years, the show has proven to be a popular choice with regional theatre groups, and in a 2003 New York workshop, Music Theatre International's own Russel Ochocki debuted the now-licensed Americanized version in which the unfamiliar British references have been deleted and many of the burlesque aspects downplayed.

Critical Reaction

"Boisterously and impudently likable."
– The Sunday Times

"Funny, inventive."
– San Francisco Gate

"Boatload of zaniness... delights in its salty innuendos and double-duty entrendres."
– DC Metro Theatre Arts

"Wonderfully hammy, stupendously camp."

"A gleeful mishmash of comedic elements and a self-aware sensibility."
– Tolucan Times



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The Musical
Musical Arrangements by MARTIN KOCH
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Special note: Each of the characters in this Play must be portrayed by an actor of the gender specified in the script.

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