Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Dreamgirls
The music is for Titanic is beautifully written. Composer Maury Yeston has a gift for writing interesting and full-sounding voicings in his harmonies, and the wonderfully rich ensemble sound of this Slow Burn Theatre Company production shows that off to full advantage. It is the ensemble that is the star of this show.
The first two songs, "There She Is," in which the passengers first see the great ship, and "Godspeed Titanic," which is sung as the ship is launched, are my favorite musical moments. There is a live, six-piece band led by musical director Emmanuel Schvartzman. The instrumentation and arrangements are quite good in general, though I did occasionally miss the sound of a fuller string and woodwind section.
The set is clean and solidly, but to be honest I wanted a bit more bells and whistles from talented scenic designer Sean McClelland, as he is normally so creative. Costuming is on the mark, but again I wanted more detail work, especially after seeing the stunning costumes from the original Broadway production at the Wick Costume Museum.
As Frederick Barrett, Landon Summers has a strong, masculine singing voice that cuts through the crowd. He shines in both "Barrett's Song" and "The Proposal." I love the character choice made by Jordan Wolfe as telegraph operator Harold Bride. His "The Night Was Alive" makes him oddly endearing. It is refreshing to hear one of the prettiest melodies in the show, "No Moon," so sweetly sung by Victor Souffrant as Fleet. Cameron Jordan as Etches is the witty, all-seeing and ever-knowing servant to the rich. He really fleshes out his character more than I have seen previous actors do with this role. While I enjoyed Alexa Baray as the well-bred Lady Caroline, I was not as fond of Justen Fox-Hall as her ne'er-do-well fiancé Charles, as his singing voice is rather thin. The staging itself is good except for the endless circling in "Dressed In Your Pyjamas In The Grand Salon," and a bit muddled in the following scene "The Staircase" with the three Kates.
In real life, Ida Strauss was the only first class female passenger who refused to board a lifeboat, preferring to perish with her beloved husband of 40 years, Isador (Troy Stanley). Ann Marie Olson as Ida has an elegance in her carriage; and the couple's second act duet "Still" will surely tug at your heartstrings. Leah Sessa provides comic relief as second class passenger Alice Beane, a high-strung, gossipy woman obsessed with the first class passengers and all their amenities. Her energy needs to be more focused as it comes off frenetic at times, and establishing her connection to her husband Edgar (James Skiba) suffers because of it.
The second act male trio "The Blame" is one of the strongest acted/sung moments in the show as Captain E.J. Smith (David Hyman), ship owner J. Bruce Ismay (Andrew Rodriguez-Triana), and ship designer Thomas Andrews (Matthew Korinko) argue over who is to blame for the tragedy at hand. During most of the show, Hyman's portrayal of Smith is lacking the dignity and confidence one would like to see, but he finally comes into his own in this scene. Matthew Korinko is ever the man of conscience as Andrews. One can not help but like him. Andrew Rodriguez-Triana is probably the strongest actor in the show. His Ismay is aggressive, entitled, and imperious without being a pompous caricature. I looked forward to hating his character every time he came on stage.
The discovery of the wreckage of the RMS Titanic in 1985 renewed interest in the story behind the famous ship which sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. Many of the characters in the musical are based upon actual passengers of the Titanic. Each of the characters named in the script existed, though names and circumstances have been changed for dramatic purposes. The plot of Titanic examines society's thirst for creating great artistic and technological achievements even at the risk of tragic failure. It is also a look at the rigid class system of the time period. Just as each individual passenger and crew member is aboard for their own personal reason, each class structure aboard can be said to be there for a different reason as well. The first class passengers aim to maintain their privileged, high profile positions in society. The second class passengers aspire to imitate the leisurely lifestyle of the upper class. The third class passengers dream of immigrating to a new life in America. The ship's fateful collision with an iceberg simultaneously dashes of their dreams regardless of their class or station.
Director Patrick Fitzwater has shown that he is capable of tackling the demands of shows with large casts. This Slow Burn Theatre Company production of a rarely done show is graced with beautifully sung music and a compelling set of stories that together paint the picture of a piece of history, and it is more than well worth seeing.
In addition to Titanic, Maury Yeston wrote the music and lyrics to the Broadway musical Nine, for which he won both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award. Yeston also wrote the music and most of the lyrics for the Tony-nominated Grand Hotel and collaborated with Arthur Kopit on the musical Phantom.
This Slow Burn Theatre Company production ofTitanic will be appearing through February 5, 2017, in the Amaturo Theater of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL. For tickets or other information for Slow Burn Theatre Company, call 954-462-0222, or visit www.slowburntheatre.com.