One hundred and nine years after the Titanic struck an iceberg near Newfoundland, Canada and sank, the ship has set sail again, this time onto the stage of the Davis Musical Theater Company (DMTC).
With story and book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, “Titanic, the Musical” won five Tony awards, including Best Musical in 1997 and ran for 804 performances. DMTC director Steve Isaacson heard the overture and “within seconds I was an instant fan.” He directed a production in 2006, and another in 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship.
The set, designed by Isaacson, is very modest, with the Captain’s quarters to one side of the stage and a mostly blank stage to represent the ship, though the looks of awe on all the cast as they appear to be looking at the ship is so real that you can imagine yourself viewing the ship as well. As usual, Jean Henderson’s costumes are beautiful.
Titanic’s designer, Thomas Andrews (Travis Nagler) opens the show talking about the wonderous things mankind has accomplished (“In Every Age”). which has enabled him to design this marvelous ship. Throughout the show, he keeps checking his blueprints, even as the ship is sinking.
Andrews is joined by stoker Barrett (J Sing, who also plays Mr. DaMico, Pittman, and The Major) who is amazed by the ship (“How did they build the Titanic”). Barrett has one of the stronger voices and every number he sings is a hit.
The crew, J. Bruce Ismay (Ben Bruening, who also plays the director of the White Star Line), lookout Frederick Fleet (Ryan Favorite), and Captain E.J. Smith (Joel Porter) congratulate each other on “The Largest Moving Object”)
This is a big cast – nearly 40 (some of whom play more than one role) – and there are many wonderful voices. Unlike the movie “Titanic,” there is no one love story that carries throughout the show, but more a study of individuals and couples who are taking the cruise, like Alice Beane (Chris Cay Stewart) and her husband Edgar (Arthur Vassar). Alice is a 2nd class passenger who is starstruck and determined to see as much of the first class as possible. Stewart has a wonderful voice and is very funny. She shines in her “I have danced” after sneaking in to dance with the first class crowd.
Laura M. Smith and Scott Minor are wonderful as first class passengers Ida and Isidor Strauss, who have been married 40 years and who decide to go down with the ship together. Their “Still” is one of the highlights of the show.
Three Kates (Katrina Lynne Pitts, Sierra Winter and Sabrina Fernandez) represent the third class passengers, determined to find jobs as “Lady’s Maids” in America. Kate McGowan (Pitts) confesses her illegitimate pregnancy to Irish Jim Farrell and the two plan to marry.
Andy Hyun plays Farrell and also plays telegraph operator Harold Bride, who sends a personal message for Barrett, proposing to his girlfriend (“The Proposal”) and then spends the rest of the evening sending off frantic SOS message.
Clocky McDowell is excellent as Henry Etches, the First Class Steward, perhaps at his best with the chorus “Doing the Latest Rag” (with choreography by Ron Cisneros).
Svea Benson, a junior high school student in her first community theater production, is very cute as the bellboy.
The first act ends with the hitting of the iceberg, and the second act the attempt to save as many passengers as possible, given that the ship has fewer than half the boats needed to carry all of them. The sinking of the ship, with tilting stage is very impressive, especially as Andrews continues to visualize redesigning the ship, as he attempts to climb the tilt.
The finale, with survivors on the deck of the rescue ship Carpathia bidding farewell to their loved ones is very emotional and will bring a tear or two.
Isaacson has once again paid tribute to the Titanic and has done it very well.
All actors wear masks, and all audience members are required as well. Audience must also show documentation of vaccination or recent negative COVID testing.
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