Entertainment » Theatre

Titanic: The Musical

by Steven  Skelley
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Apr 9, 2012
Dwight Welch (Benjamin Guggenheim) & Amanda Cheyenne Manis (Madame Leontine Aubert) with Rachael Levy, Don Bricker, Donald Cross & Cass Stark in "Titanic: The Musical"
Dwight Welch (Benjamin Guggenheim) & Amanda Cheyenne Manis (Madame Leontine Aubert) with Rachael Levy, Don Bricker, Donald Cross & Cass Stark in "Titanic: The Musical"  (Source: Goforth Photography)

The sinking of the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, and the tragic death of more than 1,500 of her passengers in freezing North Atlantic waters has captivated humanity for the last 100 years.

The heartbreaking stories and intriguing myths dominated worldwide headlines at the time, spawned the 1958 classic film "A Night To Remember," inspired one of the most successful movies of all time: James Cameron's "Titanic," launched multiple Titanic museums around the world, and led to a Broadway play that earned five Tony Awards including Best Musical.

The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, which opened just 12 years after the Titanic disaster, is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the disaster, "in loving memory of those who were on this voyage 100 years ago, on April 15 1912." Their production of "Titanic: The Musical," with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, opened on April 6, 2012.

"Titanic: The Musical" is set between April 10-15, 1912. The production opens with scenes set in Southampton, England, prior to departure. The ship's designer sings that she is a modern wonder accomplished in a new technological age with limitless possibilities.

Passengers of all social and economic levels are introduced to share what this voyage means to them. For the First Class wealthy, it is simply a chance to prove their place as the best-of-the-best. For the Second Class, it is an opportunity to move another rung up the social ladder. For the working class (Third Class) passengers, it is a desperate hope that they might find a new and better life in the mysterious new world across the daunting expanse of the Atlantic ocean.

We are soon introduced to the uneasy relationship that exists between the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews, the owner, Bruce Ismay, and the Captain, Captain E.J. Smith.

Andrews wants nothing more than a smooth, safe maiden voyage for his already-famous but untried creation. Ismay demands speed at the expense of safety. Captain Smith knows what is best for the safety of the ship and passengers but does not have the backbone to stand up to Ismay.

We also learn more details about the passengers. The RMS Titanic carried some of the wealthiest people on the planet, including Isador and Ida Strauss, who owned Macy's department store.

Cass Stark portrayed Ida Strauss. Her perfectly crafted take on Ida’s eternal devotion to her husband and her sacrificial proclamation, "Where you go, I go!" is one of the most touching of the entire production.

Donald Cross, who portrayed Isador Straus, got one of the biggest laughs of the evening with the line, "I'm thinking of running for Congress again. I enjoyed it and you don't have to know anything!"

Cass Stark portrayed Ida Strauss. Her perfectly crafted take on Ida's eternal devotion to her husband and her sacrificial proclamation, "Where you go, I go!" is one of the most touching of the entire production.

Third Class passengers include three Kates -- one of whom carries an illegitimate child. Margaret Cross, Catherine Moubray, and Amy Montecalvo all do a good job of bringing the desperate hope of these poor women to life.

How do you lighten one of the most tragic events of the twentieth century? Caroline Hinton's Alice Bean brought much-needed comic relief to the impending tragedy that was always lurking in the back of my mind. Hinton has excellent timing and delivery. She delivered the best comedy lines in the show.

Alan LaDuke portrayed Edgar Beane, Alice's exasperated husband. He was the perfect straight man for Hinton's Lucille Ball-like antics. The two are quite a team and an excellent find for the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse.

When the ship finally collides with the immense and avoidable iceberg, as we all knew it would, each of the characters reacts in accordance with his or her personality: Designer Andrews and Captain Smith see the errors of their ways that led to the disaster, the arrogant Ismay deflects the blame to others rather than facing his part in bringing about this horror, and the Strauss couple shows that tragedy can bring out the best in human character.

The Broadway production had well-known prop and scene challenges. The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse "Titanic" sets and props flowed amazingly well considering how often they rose to the fly loft or were pulled to the wings.

There was one instance when a descending wall seemed to strike an actor, but the stage was dark at the time and it may have been largely unnoticed. All in all, kudos to the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse stage crew on a successful execution of a difficult task.

Executive Director Anastacia Hawkins-Smith gave an energetic welcome and introduction to a packed, adoring audience.

Steven Skelley is a published author of several nonfiction works and the novella The Gargoyle Scrolls. He has been a newspaper columnist, travel writer, news writer, music director, creative arts director, theater reviewer and tennis instructor.


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