Southwest Ohio's Premier Entertainment Magazine
Friday, Nov. 5, 1999
What is Titanic, A New Musical?
“HOW DID THEY BUILD TITANIC?” a crewman sings as the musical
titanic begins. Eighty-five years after the supposedly unsinkable ship
hit an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic, the century’s most
legendary tale of romance, adventure, greed and ambition, is being told
live on stage.
When people hear that a musical has been written about the tragic voyage
of the world’s largest ship, reactions range from curiosity to
fascination to keen expectation. In fact, interest in the Titanic has
never been greater. In the past few years, we’ve seen a mini-series,
a major motion picture, several novels, and even a cookbook.
Titanic, a new, original American musical, is a joyous, breathtaking
and often heartbreaking show that captures the scope and humanity of
what went on during the ship’s historic voyage.
WHY MAKE A MUSICAL BASED ON THE TITANIC?
The sinking of the Titanic in the early hours of April 15,1912, remains
the quintessential disaster of this century. A total of 1,517 souls – men,
women and children – lost their lives (only 711 survived). The
fact that the finest, largest strongest ship in the world – called,
in fact, the “unsinkable ship” – should have been lost
during its maiden voyage is so incredible that, had it not actually happened,
no author would have dared contrive it. This is the factual story of
that ship – of her officers, crew, and passengers. In the style
of recent musical dramas like Les Miserables or Miss Saigon, the 40-plus
characters in Titanic express their emotions through song. Though the
sinking of the Titanic was an epic event that demonstrated the fallibility
of man’s nature, the story captures us most on a human level. We
want to know what it was like to have been on the ship, and we are deeply
moved by the tragic situation of those innocent people. We feel the grand
sweep of their lives through the passionate music of Tony Award-winning
composed Maury Yeston.
IS THE MUSICAL TITANIC HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?
The musical is indeed based on fact and follows the story of the Titanic
chronologically. The show starts with the launching of the ship at Northampton,
and the final scenes take place with the survivors on the Carpathia.
Most of the characters are based on actual people: John Jacob Astor,
Benjamin Guggenheim, Captain E.J. Smith, J. Bruce Ismay, Frederick Barrett,
Harold Bride. Some dramatic license has been taken with some secondary
characters, but they are a composite of actual passengers and crewmembers.
After a recent discovery that contact with the iceberg resulted in six
small gashes, a line in the show was changed to reflect the new piece
IS THE SHOW SAD?
Audiences grow to care about the characters in the musical as they watch
these people respond to an extraordinary situation. The men and women
of Titanic manage to break your heart and lift your spirits at the same
time. Act One is completely celebratory – this was, after all,
the maiden voyage of the largest grandest and safest ship in history.
Act Two is a progression among both the passengers and crew from denial,
to doubt, to realization, to acceptance, and finally to panic, as the
extent to the catastrophe became more and more evident.