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.