Romance of a gilded age captured in stage show

Grade: B

One moment the ship was there and the next it was gone, one of the characters in the musical "Titanic" mentions. In a matter of two hours the largest moving object on Earth disappeared into the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

The show, which played at Emens Auditorium on Monday night, offered a lesson that has reverberated strongly over the past several weeks. Mankind's monuments of stone and steel are imperfect, like their creators.

"Titanic" is a musical not simply about the infallibility of those creations, but also people's faith in them.

Unlike the 1997 Oscar winning film, the show is not a tale of romance between two individuals, but a tale of romance with the ship and the romance with a gilded age that was snuffed out in the cold of night. In that romance the rich frolicked carelessly in their glorious surroundings, while the poor celebrated their dreams.

The show opened with a couple in elegant evening wear dancing through the fog, silohoutted against a white screen. The ship's architect, Thomas Andrews emerges and strikes up a rendition of "In Every Age," which expresses the miracle of the Titanic's construction.

The story centered mainly around real people, such Captain E.J. Smith, White Star owner Bruce Ismay and millionaire J.J. Astor. The masses were represented by such figures as a trio of Irish girls, a stoker, a stevedore and a middle class couple traveling in second class.

Sarah Comley as Alice Beane , the wife of a hardware store owner from Indianapolis was perhaps the most entertaining and three dimensional person in the cast. Derivative of the themes behind the show, she was not content with simply seeing the world, because there are many other things to see first, like millionaires rubbing elbows in the first class saloon.

Bells and chimes accompanied by strumming violins ticked away the moments leading to the disaster. The lookout tolls his bells and hollers a warning about an approaching iceberg. The first act ends with a cacophony of drums booming the sound of twisting metal.

At first the crew tries to act calm and the first class passengers put the ice on the deck into their drinks. Stewards go from cabin to cabin like clockwork during the song "Wake Up." The emotions intensify when the brass and strings explode during "The Blame" when Andrews and the Captain get into a heated argument with Ismay who ordered that ship go full speed.

The sets literally floated down from the ceiling, creating massive combinations, revealing the grandiosity of the ship. They were mechanical wonders in themselves, not only in the way they opened up the world inside the ship and later simulated the sinking, with the movement of three simple walls.

Some of the songs in the show were thrown a little off key as the actors tried to immitate Irish accents and the pace seemed a bit tedious at times, but the show provided an interesting, sometimes exciting glimpse in the hopes and aspirations and ultimately the dread aboard the ship.

The poor souls left on board meet their end not in an overdramatic action scene, but left with their thoughts. The scene remains subtle until the final moments when the lights flicker on and off the beam tilts and the drums clashing giving way to screaming and splashing. The musical was not so much a tragedy about the loss, but a rendition of dreams.


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