How very appropriate that “SeaWife,” a new nautical-themed show about the turbulent and troubled life and death of a 19th-century whaler, is playing at the South Street Seaport Museum, right next to the East River.
Not so much a traditional musical, “SeaWife” could be described as an episodic adventure novel narrated and enacted by a young seven-member band (six of whom are known as the Lobbyists) that plays sea shanties, indie folk, bluegrass and a bit of pop.
It is heavily atmospheric, with the audience right next to the cast and surrounded by maritime bric-a-brac.
Percy, its protagonist, is at first portrayed as a young boy via a puppet. Two actors then take on the part as he progresses from an innocent, newly married sailor to a triumphant whaler to finally a dangerous, tormented man.
At a length of more than 2½ hours, “SeaWife” is uneven, depressing and seriously overstuffed. The songs (which have lush harmonies) do not directly advance the narrative, which adds to a feeling of stalled momentum, and there is very little movement among the actors.
But problems aside, the show’s creators deserve credit for originality. And shots of rum and cans of beer are available for five bucks a piece, which ought to get one in the mood for its brand of barroom-style storytelling.
If you go: ‘SeaWife’ plays through July 19 at the Melville Gallery at the South Street Seaport Museum. 213 Water St., seawife.org.