Titanic sails into Emens tonight

Musical focuses on real people behind the tragedy, and their hopes and aspirations.

Emens Auditorium will collide with history when "Titanic" sets sail on the stage tonight.

The Broadway musical currently touring the country will make its first appearance at Ball State. The original Broadway run swept the Tony Awards in 1997 taking honors in five categories including Best Musical and Best Score.

Unlike the 1997 James Cameron film "Titanic," which emphasized the romance between a pair of ill-fated lovers, the stage musical focuses on the real people behind the tragedy and the dreams and aspirations of the passengers on board.

"You see people connecting and making relationships, but it deals more with the captain of the ship and his crew, the owner of the White Star Line (which operated the ship) and the designer of the ship," said Marni Kuhn, director of publicity for Big League Theatricals, the show's production company. "It also focuses a lot on the third class passengers coming to America and starting a new life."

Kuhn believes the theme resonates particularly strong right now.

"That's the thing we want to focus on after Sept. 11; about what a great place America is, and how it's the land of opportunity," she said. "Even with all the events that happened that week, we still had standing ovations and packed houses."

The show opens with Thomas Andrews, the ship's architect, looking over the blueprints. The curtain rises to reveal the docks at Southampton, England, on the morning of April 10, 1912, as the passengers and crew eagerly await to board the great vessel.

Elaborate sets, sounds and lighting recreate the sinking on April 15.

"The set is very grandiose," Emens assistant manager Julie Strider said. "They do have a big ship, but luckily our stage is really large, and we can accommodate the show easily. We don't have to make any special adjustments."

The core characters are presented in groups of three, from the stoker, the lookout and the radioman, who represent common seamen to the Irish girls in steerage, who are at the center of the emigrant class. Each have their own plans and the shows traces those over the five days, until the night when the ship struck the iceberg and made its descent into the sea.

"The idea behind the show is sad," Strider said. "It's a historical tribute. It's a very epic drama that's true to history."

"There are some sad moments, but there are also many exciting moments especially as they sing about coming to America," Kuhn said."You get to see the voyage through the eyes of those people."

Kuhn hopes students can relate to the characters' goals.

"A lot of the show is about dreaming and becoming what you want to be," she said. "That human side has been ringing true everywhere we go."

The show begins at 7:30 tonight. Tickets are $25, $30, $35 and $40 for the general public and free in advance for students.


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