Believe it or not, Moby Dick is good material for a musical

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Through Oct. 12. $15-$40; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.
Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at Capp), S.F.

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After putting the "head" in Hedda Gabler and the "sin" in Cinderella, the fishnet- and short-skirt–wearing schoolgirls of the fictional St. Godley's School for Young Ladies have decided "to mount dick"— Moby Dick, that is. This bawdy musical within a musical, which was an underground success in Cambridge, England, only to tank in a massive London production, is quite a fun production to begin Theatre Rhinoceros' 31st season. When the songs are sung well, such as the first-act duet between Ahab (Matthew Martin) and his love, Esta (Diane Merlino), the delicious absurdity is irresistible and the show takes on a Sweeney Todd–esque dark charisma. There's plenty of heavy camp (dick jokes galore) and some rowdy, off-key singing that feels very high school, but, as with many of Rhino's shows, there's an infectious joy and sense of celebration onstage and in the audience. What struck me the most was how well the story of hunting the great white whale translated into a musical. Perhaps if there were fewer oral sex jokes and stronger voices, this could be Broadway material.

 
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