I remember growing up and being in my high school history class, thinking there must be more that we aren't being told. The teaching of Australian History is fraught, to say the least. If you don't believe me, look into The History Wars. I kept thinking there must be so many untold stories of people, so many half-truths and misinterpretations. I then studied history at university, and that was definitely the case. One such story not widely known is the tragic tale of George Scott, also known as Capitan Moonlite. This is a captivating story of systemic injustice, media sensationalism, and a queer historical landmark of Australia's colonial past. I am so glad that Richmond Players decided to tell this tale.
Capitan Moonlite is the work of writer and composer Jye Bryant, who, after working on the show for several years, is finally able to stage and attend a performance. Richmond players are only the second company to produce this musical, and Bryant was unable to attend the premiere season in person due to the then QLD/NSW border closure. The music is heavily inspired by Irish Folk music and has a whimsical feel as a result. I cannot speak highly enough about the quality of the ballads, which have the feel of poetic recitations fitting with the context of the story. Given that the story is framed as the Gallows letters, told from the perspective of George Scott, my only criticism of the composition is that I found myself wanting more development for the supporting characters, particularly the relationship between Scott and his lover James Nesbitt. I say this because I fully believe that this show is amazing, and as Bryant continues to workshop and refine, I see no reason this story should not be told on bigger stages all around Australia.
The titular Capitan Moonlite is portrayed by Peter David Allison. Allison has a difficult job, being on stage for most of the show and carrying the burden of the storytelling. Clewes has a confidence and softness that is really charming from the beginning, and he really shines in the role. I do not know if Alison is Irish, but if he is not, I am impressed by the consistency of his accent. Irish is not an accent that most people practice singing in. The other person who gets to shine in the singing department is Michael Clewes as James Nesbitt. Clewes has an amazing voice, and honestly, I wish he had more songs in the production. Singing ability aside, Clewes has an earnestness on stage that is really engaging, and he really makes use of every second he is on stage.
These gentlemen are joined by Grace Lizzio-Sharpe, Martyn Carter, Lucas Galatidis, and Donald Gardiner, who play a host of supporting roles and bit parts. Vocally, there are not too many moments for the ensemble, but Lizzio-Sharpe adds a wonderful depth with her voice when she harmonizes. I am not sure if having the role played by a woman was intentional or a necessity, but if it is the latter, it is a wonderful occurrence. Carter plays many roles in the production, and I was impressed with his physical comedy and commitment. Galatidis played young and naive very well; being so tall, paired with how he held himself, I was reminded of a puppy, in the best way, as it gave weight to the character's end. Gardiner was on stage quite a lot, playing a whole host of roles, and helped to flesh out the world that this show existed in.
Director Jonathan Brown has brought together a wonderful cast and has let them shine as performers with simple but effective sets, using projection to indicate time and place. Working alongside Susan Brown (Musical Director) and Anthony Ashdown (Choreographer), this team has created a clear vision for the production, which leans into the strengths of the performers.
Capitan Moonlite is an engaging story, supported by some genuinely toe-tapping music. I have high hopes for this show and would love to see it grow and travel because this is a story from our past that I think we should be telling. I give Richmond Players' production of Capitan Moonlite 3.75 gallows letters out of 5.