In January 1997, rehearsals began in New York for Titanic, soon to become
one of Broadway’s most treasured and spectacular musicals. A fabulous
team is assembled, including book writer Peter Stone, composer and lyricist
Maury Yeston, and director Richard Jones. The cast of 27 actors are drawn
instantly to the characters living out their last hours aboard the sinking
ship. All is coming together at a fast pace.
However, mounting a production of such magnitude takes a great amount
of time, energy and money. Many questions arise. After all, how will
the team make a ship sink on stage? Andrew Lloyd Webber conquered similar
feats with the infamous chandelier. Of The Phantom of the Opera and helicopter
of Miss Saigon. The theatrical downing of the R.M.S. Titanic presents
even more of a challenge.
A MINOR DELAY
Titanic is forced to spend three extra days in “ tech” rehearsals
(the time when all of the lighting, scenic, and technical aspects are
added to the show). As a result, the first three previews are canceled.
This delay causes a veritable frenzy among the New York press, whose
critics and columnists have a ball writing headlines such as “Titanic
Refuses to Leave Port,” and “This Titanic Won’t Sink.” But
within days, they are all proved wrong.
On April 23, 1997, eighty-five years after the real R. M. S. Titanic
sailed into history, Titanic opens at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne
Theater. Rave reviews follow, and the show quickly becomes the hottest
ticket in town. Month’s later, Titanic sweeps the Tony Awards,
winning for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Orchestrations,
and Best Set.
Titanic sails smoothly for another two years, setting house records
for attendance and sales at the Lunt-Fontanne. In 1998, it begins a national
tour, docking at theaters around the country.