“Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville’s 1851 novel about obsession (and a great white whale) might not seem like a natural for a musical. Then again, neither did Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” and that became a Broadway hit as “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” To playwright Dave Malloy, who brought “Great Comet” to the stage, such “classic weird novels” are perfect for musical adaptations, not least because they give him so much to work with.
“It’s such a great sprawling mess,” says Malloy of “Moby-Dick,” which will have its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in a Dec. 3 preview, eight days before opening night. The production, with Malloy’s music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations, will reunite much of the “Great Comet” team, including Tony Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin, who helped develop the show, music director Or Matias, and designers Mimi Lien and Bradley King, and bring in choreographer Chanel DaSilva.
In many ways, says Malloy, “Moby-Dick” lends itself to adaptation. “The book is written more like a play at times than a novel, and other sections are like essays on fiction or different ways of cooking whales,” he enthuses. “Melville played with form. He really breaks the idea of what a novel can be, and I’m very attracted to things like that.”