A whale of a time: ‘Orca: A One-Whale Musical’ to debut at Waterfront Museum

orca whale
“Orcha: A One-Whale Musical” will premier at the Waterfront Barge Museum in Red Hook on Oct. 20.
Photo courtesy of Adam Ernster/Pexels

A new musical is in town, and it’s sure to blow audiences out of the water. “ORCA: A One-Whale Musical” is set to premiere in Red Hook later this month.

On Oct. 20 and 21, marine life lovers and musical enthusiasts alike will have the opportunity to meet Gordon the orca whale as he tells the story of his life through song at Red Hook’s historic Waterfront Barge Museum.

Written, produced and composed by comedian Kyle Mazer, “ORCA” will explore the watery depths of Gordon’s existence; both as a marine mammal and as an ambitious individual, attempting to navigate life without his community after he leaves the “orcastra” to try to become a rock star. 

“I’ve always loved orca whales,” Mazer told Brooklyn Paper. “I think they are one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. And I’ve never seen a species that is as communal to this point even more than humans.”

Mazer said his fascination with how the creatures function and foster complex communities — even going so far as to develop independent cultures and synchronize boat attacks — led to his musical exploration of how perhaps we have things to learn from the aquatic animals.

“The way we have become so kind of isolated and so technologically-oriented, we don’t have that kind of cultural community that I think orcas have maintained throughout their eons of existence as apex predators,” said Mazer. “I thought about what a lonely whale would feel like if there was a whale who was kind of distanced from his family or distanced from his community. How would that compare to the experience of a human who, whether it’s because of pandemic isolation, whether it’s from work from home life — which is something I deal with — or moving to a new city?”

Red Hook's Waterfront Barge Museum set of Orca
The thought of audiences floating while watching “Orca” was too good to pass up, Mazer said. Photo by David Sharps

While the premise of the musical seems rather lighthearted, and there are absolutely some silly moments, the show carries some real weight too. In “ORCA”, Gordon’s character, played by Mazer’s friend actor Dominic Sullivan, experiences the crushing loneliness and isolation that so many of his human counterparts are familiar with.

Audience members are taken through moments in Gordon’s life where he struggles to adapt to his surroundings, with his ambition and even with addiction..

“It’s a dark comedy that kind of starts off very light and in the realm of what you would think of if you saw an animal musical,” Mazer said. “But in its progression, we follow Gordon the whale through his whole life and as his life goes on, it gets dark pretty fast.”

The Waterfront Barge Museum, where the musical will be performed, also played a significant role in inspiring Mazer to write “ORCA.”

“It started with the Waterfront,” he said. “When I saw this theater floating on the water and thought of an audience floating while listening to this whale tell his story, I was like ‘This is too good to be true’. I fell in love with Red Hook, the community as a whole, the incredible art scene there.”

Mazer hopes that audiences walk (or swim) away from the musical valuing our own communities and friendships a little bit more.

“I think the importance of community is really at the core of the story and being such an isolated world [in “ORCA”], we don’t really see Gordon’s family and Gordon’s friends and thinking about like, if we were all our own little Gordon’s, what does our community mean to us?” said Mazer.

“ORCA: A One-Whale Musical” will be playing at the Waterfront Barge Museum on Oct. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. To learn more about the musical or to purchase tickets visit the website here.