George White and Brian Dennehy lead a whale of a show

When Mystic Seaport marks the 70th anniversary of the Charles Morgan's arrival there, it will have a little extra drama, thanks to Brian Dennehy and George C. White.

White has created a theater work titled "Prince of Whalers" for the celebration, weaving together narration, music and pieces of whaling lore. Dennehy will lead the performance on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the seaport.

The goal of it all is to raise money for the restoration of the Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaleship.

White, who founded the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, is now chairman of the seaport's International Council. He brought Dennehy, who is a sailor and loves the sea, onto the council's board. Dennehy had originally suggested the idea of performing some of Eugene O'Neill's sea plays onboard the Morgan. White thought that would great but countered with a different idea. The result is "Prince of Whalers."

White has incorporated into the theater piece some logs and diaries of people who were onboard the Morgan. In one sequence, the Morgan's drifts to an island and is attacked by cannibals.

For a bit of levity, White included a story about how, when the ship landed in New Zealand, the sailors wandered into a bar and a barmaid tried to slip one of them a mickey.

White says of "Prince of Whalers," "Yes, it's about the Morgan, but it's also about whaling in general."

Among the more wide-reaching elements: a segment from "Moby-Dick"; details on the whaleship Essex; and diaries from wives who accompanied their whaling husbands to sea. The latter is culled from a script by Jordon Pecile, professor emeritus of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

"Prince of Whalers" will feature Dennehy, along with Linda Hart, Joe Grifasi and Maria Tucci.

Hart originated the role of Velma Von Tussle in Broadway's "Hairspray." She won a Theatre World award for her performance in Lincoln Center's "Anything Goes," and she has acted in such films as "Tin Cup" and "Get Shorty." Her husband, William Forster, is a long-time trustee and former chairman of Mystic Seaport.

Grifasi has long been active with the O'Neill Center, and his long list of credits include Broadway's "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," "The Accidental Death of an Anarchist," and "Dinner at Eight." He was nominated for a Drama Desk award for "The Boys Next Door."

Tucci was nominated for a Tony for best supporting or featured actress for the 1967 revival of "The Rose Tattoo." Among her other acting apperances are the movie "To Die For" and guest spots on "Law & Order."

For the Nov. 5 show, Sonalysts will manage the sound, and Geoff Kaufman will provide music.

White hopes "Prince of Whalers" has a future beyond this one-time performance.

"When the Morgan is back in place, I'd like to make this into a true sound-and-light show, where you would go to the seaport at 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock at night on weekends during the spring, summer and fall," White says.

He envisions it this way: "You can sit out in front of the Morgan, and you can put in a CD. ... You'd hear the same basic script, but the lights would go on, the music would go on. It would be a real light show around the Morgan."

So perhaps the show might go on.


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