I grew up listening to the original Broadway cast recording of Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Titanic and loved the gorgeous score. Growing up in Jersey I saw many shows on Broadway but sadly Titanic was one of the few shows I didn’t get to see. It’s been on my list of shows to see ever since. Last week, I attended Signature Theatre’s production of Titanic and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.
First, let me touch on the design aspect. Designer Paul Tate dePoo III created five ramps; two descend to the stage and the other three crisscross above the audience. The grid base of the ramps allow light shine through keep all actors visible to the audience. There are three trap doors built into the stage floor that utilize a bright red hue to represent the boilers when opened. The design builds the titanic around the audience rather than in front or them to dazzling effect. The abstract design causes the audience to conjure up their own personal image of what Titanic looks like; putting that obligation on the audience makes the performance immersive and engaging. The immersive quality of the design was especially successful the moment during the ships sinking (spoiler?) when the three dimensional set created the illusion of being under the dark Atlantic Ocean (the details would give to much away, you’ll just have to see for your self).
The cast of 20 doubles many of the roles seamlessly gliding from one character into another with quick costume changes. The acting and vocal demands of this show are incredibly difficult and the cast tackles both wonderfully. I had an issue with a few cast members playing roles that were much too young for them. I feel casting younger actors would have made me feel more sympathetic to these young characters singing about starting a new life. The standouts in the cast for me were Sam Ludwig as Frederick Barrett and Nick Lehan as Harold Bride, whose duet “The Proposal/The Night Was Alive,” was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Lawrence Redmond as J.Bruce Ismay and Bobby Smith as Thomas Andrews were also standouts.
The direction by Signature Theatre Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer was perfection. Directing such a large scale production, in a black box theater in the round had to be a daunting task. Staging Titanic in the round brings each audience member onboard for the whole two hours and twenty five minutes the play runs.
I was so invested in the play I kept leaning over to my husband and muttering, “Can I just worn them about the iceberg? If only they were going slower!” You truly care for these characters and want them to survive even though you know there demise is imminent.
I absolutely recommend seeing this show. This was by far one of my favorite production of a musical I have ever seen here in the DC area. Titanic is a smash hit.