Opal Center stages "King Who Wanted a Whale"


They built a boat, will it float? 

That’s a question audiences will have to answer after seeing Opal Center’s latest show, “The King Who Wanted a Boat.” 

The question, the main line of chorus in the “Whale Boat Launch Song” strikes at the heart of the musical written by Cottage Grove resident Hal Holbrook. 

In a fantastical suspension of reality that falls somewhere between a folk tale and a Pixar film gone awry, Holbrook lays a story of friendship and loyalty over a fairly simple premise: There’s this king, see, and he wants a boat. 

The play premiered last Friday night. 

“We opened and it was great,” said director Earl Ruttencutter. “We had pretty good crowd all weekend and it came off better than I thought it would.” The company, made up of Opal regulars like Paul Von-Rotz and newcomers between the ages of 11 and 13, was struck by a stubborn illness days before opening night. During the show’s last dress rehearsal, at least one lead actor was sick and another down for the count. 

“To say we’re all recovered, to use that word would be a lot,” Ruttencutter said. “As best as can be, let’s say that. That bug was a tough one.”

Illness aside, the company planted its feet (and danced around a bit) and carried on through this kid-friendly production.

The show begins with the discovery of bundle of old papers and drawings that present a mystery to Paul Von-Rotz and Maya Wilhauer who immediately launch into song to deal with their confusion. 

For the next hour and 40 minutes, an array of animals (subjects?) fidget and fuss over how to get their beloved king (goat?) a whale to place in his moat. 

Wilhauer delivers a stand-out performance as the king’s messenger boy and ultimate solver of the royal gang’s big problem: They can’t catch a whale and if they could, they can’t drag it to the castle and if they could, the moat wouldn’t hold a whale and if it could, the water in the moat isn’t salt water and if it was, the idea of a live whale in a moat is ridiculous. 

To see how the animal kingdom satisfies its king’s demands, check out “The King Who Wanted a Boat” at Opal Theatre Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.