A Division of Thomson Southwest Ohio Newspapers
Friday, Now 5, 1999
Behind the Scenes:
The Making of Titanic, A New Musical
Composer-lyricist Maury Yeston and story and book writer Peter Stone
had worked together before – they were both called in to rescue
the musical Grand Hotel, which was threatening to close in Boston during
its out-of-town tryout. They fully enjoyed their collaboration and it
apparently had a positive result” Grand Hotel ran over 1,000 performance
on Broadway. During that rime, they discovered, by total coincidence,
they each had been harboring magnificent dreams of turning the enduring
myth of the Titanic into a musical drama. They gladly pooled resources
and set to work almost immediately.
The saga was a difficult one to synthesize – there were so many
characters, so many incidents, so many themes. But they moved forward
with remarkable agreement and, yes, even a mystic sort of symbiosis,
whereby one would hit upon a new idea that the other would intuit before
hearing it. But from the beginning a definite pattern emerged – the
main characters would be presented in groups of three.
The first trio are common seamen – a stoker, a lookout and a radioman;
each having first-hand knowledge of the three natural forces that were
instrumental in destroying the ship: speed, visibility and ice.
And then three uncommon men –the owner, the builder and the captain;
each revealing a flaw of character: greed, compromise and compliance.
When these faults collide with the ineluctable forces of nature, the
ship’s fate is sealed. In classical tragedy, this collision is
inevitable. That it occurred in reality is astounding. And legendary.
Surrounding these core characters are the rest of the officers and crew
(the latter divided into seamen and hotel staff), all of them attending
to the passengers.
In 1st Class was almost every American multi-millionaire – Astor,
Guggenheim, Straus, Thayer, Widener, and more – powerful men who,
with their wives and families, were the regular and frequent passengers
on the great transatlantic liners.
Second Class was filled with merchants, professionals, tourists and
the socially ambitious who wanted nothing more than participation in
this glittering event. They had booked passage so they could rub up against
the 1st Class: perhaps some of that golden charisma would even rub off.
In 3rd Class (commonly called steerage), there were the emigrants from
the Old World, eager to reach the new. Irish, Turkish, Italian, Scandinavian – they
were fleeing poverty and hopelessness, in search of opportunity and the
gold the streets of America were purported t be paved with. Eating more
and better food than they were used to, they spent, for the first time
in their lives, four full days in idleness. They had been assigned to
the ship by lottery and didn’t really care which one it was, as
long as it got them to America.