In the tiny, yet charming quarters of the Melville Gallery in lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, a modern-day arcade morphs into a 19th-century seaside in Seth Moore’s SeaWife, a site-specific new summer production playing through July 19.
While the self-dubbed “folk concert play” could simply be labeled a musical, SeaWife is much more—a nautical tale told through a combination of live music and dramatics, creating a theatrical concert experience with the help of NYC-based actor-musician sextet The Lobbyists and their slew of instruments, who incorporate everything from accordion to mandolin to fiddle into the proceedings.
Percy, a sailor following his father’s whaling legacy through various hardships set against lighthearted seaman jargon and spirited folk tunes, endures love, death, success, failure, and, gradually, a transformation into a deadly harpooner. Tides turn shortly before intermission and—in an interesting casting coup—a different actor plays Percy in the second act, but Tommy Crawford and Will Turner, respectively, offer convincing, alluring performances—especially the latter, who deftly shifts from a hilarious deckhand into a believably troubled central character.
Perhaps the production’s only major issue is overlength—nearly three hours with intermission—and there are lags in the second act. Nevertheless, the show’s enchanting score and impressive musicianship make it easy to roll with the running time—SeaWife creates a lovely balance of music and stagecraft that provides a most unique spectacle. A–