Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Titanic the Musical

Titanic the Musical based on the story and book by Peter Stone, and music a lyrics by Maury Yeston, was staged at the Walt Disney Theater in the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts as part of UCF Celebrates the Arts. I entered the theater under the impression  that i would be seeing a quaint college production with excited parents in the audience shooting shaky iPhone footage of their child on stage. The stage itself quickly dismissed that false notion. The set was huge consisting of three tiers with stairways and gang planks. An orchestra was under the second tier providing live musical accompaniment. Silky banners were suspended from the rafters, and at the overture, photos were projected of the people who would  play a part in the tragedy to follow. As the projection glowed bright a spotlight wold illuminate the tiny actor on stage playing the part.

This wasn't based on the James Cameron movie in which Kate Winslet let her artist lover, Jack, slip off the floating door which she needed to survive, and watched him sink into the cold ocean depths. The play introduced a whole new cast of characters, many immigrants hoping for a better life in America and others rich and famous. Three women from Ireland discovered they all had the same first name of Kate as they entered the floating palace destined for a new life. Below deck third class passengers ate at humble wooden tables excited for what might come while the rich smoked cigars and drank brandy as they played cards up in the Grand Salon. The excited songs below deck were tinged with an underlying sadness since we all knew their true destiny to come.

Captain Smith was on his final voyage before he retired and he allowed himself to be pressured into accelerating the speeds ship beyond his usual safety precautions. Titanic after all was unsinkable. At the end of the first act a spotlight illuminated Fleet, who was high above the audience on a an upper balcony in the theater. He was the look out and he sang a song lamenting no moon and no wind as he shivered on his post. Then he spotted an iceberg. The sound of ice ripping through metal was followed by the blackness of the curtain falling.

Another particularly powerful scene came when perhaps 20 of the cast appeared above the audience on the lower balcony. Watery reflections shimmered around them as they sang. Perhaps they were ghosts. As the first and second class passengers gathered in the grand salon they were told to put on their life jackets. Vanity kept the rich from covering their expensive robes. As they argued a coffee cart began rolling across the stage. All the bickering stopped and suddenly everyone was in a rush to get the jackets on.

I had never heard the music before but by the second act I would myself predicting what word would follow on the next line to rhyme. With so many intertwining human stories, some stronger lyrics might have added a finer polish to the show.

The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats, enough for 1178 people. That was only a third of the passengers and crew. Women and children entered boats leaving the men behind to die. As one surviving woman described it, "It was as if a while football stadium entered the sea and the screaming was overwhelming. A half hour later, all the screaming stopped."

This was a stellar production, far exceeding my expectations. The theater was packed. It is a shame there were only two chances to catch this amazing show. There were over 50 performers in the cast and all of them were UCF students with a few guest artists and faculty in the mix.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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