The world is all abuzz about Titanic. The 100th anniversary has spawned a re-release of James Cameron’s famous film, a multitude of televised and printed tributes, and a remake of the voyage itself, complete with a replica boat that traveled the exact same route. (Talk about karma waiting to happen.)
SoColumbus, of course, couldn’t get away from the hype. Curtain Players’ staging of “Titanic the Musical,” running through April 29 at the troupe’s Playhouse inGalena, has sold out EVERY production. (One seasoned local thespian sitting near me put it best, “Getting a ticket to this show was like winning Willy Wonka’s golden ticket!”)
Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s ode lit up Broadway, winning five Tony’s, including Best Musical, in 1997, the same year as Cameron’s film. But I’m having trouble understanding why.
Curtain Players’ production is phenomenal (more on that later). But the book and music left me flat. The script is in the same vein as “Anything Goes” with the musical stylings of “Phantom of the Opera,” but doesn’t quite live up to those classics. The show is riddled with clichés and stunted character development. It’s fun, but not exactly phenomenal.
Despite my misgivings about the show’s original artistic integrity, director April Olt pulls out all the stops, adding a plethora of the necessary bells and whistles for this local blockbuster.
Having to guide more than 40 actors makes the task of putting this show together much like captaining the Titanic, and it looks like Olt handles it with ease. Every inch of the small Galena Playhosue is put to use. Boat staff climb ladders on the walls, people are singing from the balcony and the aisle ways are constantly filled with performers.
Cleverly built moving set pieces (also designed by Olt) transform the stage from deck to captain’s quarters to dining room and back again. But the bank could’ve easily been broken with the intricate costumes donned by each of the entire cast. Debbie Hamrick, of Debbie’s Costume Shop, adds striking nuance to the period aesthetic for the ship’s first class, second class and third class passengers.
I was also thoroughly surprised by the talent. There wasn’t a single off vocal throughout the night. A hefty task when dealing with that many voices. Most noteworthy are the show’s leading men. Jay Rittberger, Doug Browell and Randy Benge (as designer, owner and captain respectively) are phenomenal, especially during high-charged “The Blame” once it’s realized the ship is lost. But this was truly an ensemble show. The harmonies during “Godspeed Titanic,” “Lady’s Maid” and “We’ll Meet Tomorrow” are goose-bump inducing.
I have to admit, I did get a bit teary towards the end as the ship was going down and women and children were literally being ripped from the arms of the men, but this is more a credit to the cast’s amazing acting chops, rather than anything done by Yeston and Stone.
You should definitely go see “Titanic the Musical” (if you can get a ticket!), but because it’s a tribute to what the amazing theater talent Central Ohio has to offer, not because you’re suffering from Titanic Mania.
“Titanic the Musical” runs through April 29 at the Curtain Players Playhouse in Galena. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for students/seniors. All shows are sold out but there is a waiting list. Visit www.curtainplayers.com for more information.