ELMSFORD, N.Y. -- More than a century after its ill-fated maiden voyage, the Titanic, continues to fascinate us. Titanic runs through Sunday, Feb. 23 at Westchester Broadway Theatre in White Plains, and Director Don Stephenson's show is a good one.
The original Broadway production made its debut in April of 1997, and garnered five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Orchestrations and Best Scenic Design.
Stephenson was in the original Broadway cast, and lamented the fact that the show, as brilliant as it was, could not reach a wider audience, with a road tour. The large cast and lavish sets were trimmed, and production costs slashed. This re-tweeking is what is now, on the Elmsford stage. The show also features a unique menu based on The Titanic (see the attached PDF).
A listing of the first class passengers included American multi-millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, the R.H. Macy department store owner Isador Strauss, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim and Major Archibald Butt, who was the aide and confidante of former President Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, the then-incumbent occupant of the White House.
Audience members meet Edgar and Alice Beane. A small hardware store owner from the Midwest. Alice sneaks every chance to cross the invisible line that separates their 2nd class accommodations from those in 1st class. Alice's all-consuming quest is to rub elbows and mingle with the creme de la creme of society.
Among those huddled together in 3rd class, we find a young Irish woman, Kate, who hopes to find a man who will accept her and her unborn child, in America.
We also meet the "godfather"of the Titanic, J. Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of the White Star Line, who has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, as the ship disembarks. Throughout the first act, we see Ismay pressuring Captain Edward J. Smith, to accelerate the ship's speed. The seasoned seaman quietly dismisses his misgivings about doing so, but, ultimately acquiesces to Ismay's wishes.
In a far off corner of the ship, we see Harold Bride, the radioman and telegrapher, hunched over his tiny desk, from which he learns of the impending danger, lurking in the muddy North Atlantic seas. Iceberg - Dead Ahead!
The iceberg splits the ocean liner in half. With it, more than 1,500 of the 2,200 passengers are lost. The survivors, wrapped in blankets, greet the audience, in the finale. Through their words and music, they bring together all the hopes and dreams that had set sail from Southampton, England on that early April morn.
The ensemble cast is magnificent. They ably wear two, three or more hats, throughout the show. Musical director Ian Weinberger astutely weaves his magic in bringing to life, the mighty ship and its passengers.
Choreographer Liza Genaro briskly moves the story along with precision and artistry. Costume Designers Derek Lockwood and Ryan Moller vividly recapture the fashions of the day, by attiring the passengers in a way that defines their station in life. Stephenson has nurtured and brought forth a stand-out production, for which we are most grateful.
The story of the Titanic holds very special meaning to this reviewer, who was privileged to know a local woman, whose family, were originally, set to be passengers on the ill-fated ship. Fortunately, her father postponed the trip.
The only fault of the musical is its omission of a hymn, Nearer My God to Thee, that was sung by the passengers and crew, in the ship's final moments.
Other than that, I urge everyone to book passage on Titanic: The Musical. TTickets may be obtained by contacting the WBT at (914)-592-2222 or visiting its website.