Written by Barbare Sturua
Five-time Tony Award-Winning “Titanic The Musical ” celebrates the 26th anniversary since it premiered on Broadway and the 10th anniversary of the show’s London premier. The play directed by Thom Southerland, composed by Maury Yeston (Nine, Grand Hotel) and written by Peter Stone (Women of the Year, 1776), will run in movie theaters nationwide for the first time on November 4 and 8.
I have always wondered what Broadway was like in the 90’s. Before Times Square filled up with Mickey Mouse and Spiderman costumes, before the billboards covered the sky, and before Broadway became a tourist attraction. What was it like when Broadway actors were as praised and appreciated as Hollywood figures and pop stars?
Sadly, I never got to experience that, but for a split second as I was sitting in the movie theater at the AMC Empire 25, on 42nd Street on October 30, with popcorn in my hands, waiting for the screening of the play to start, I got a taste of what Broadway theater was like in the past. Women in high heels and men in ironed, crisp shirts, couldn’t hide their fascination “Oh it’s actually a movie theater!”. As the recording was just about to start the audience applauded. We all collectively decided that we were not seeing a film but rather a play.
After the screening of the play, the Academy Award and Emmy Award winning composer, Maury Yeston spoke about consuming theater in this new form, through the screen by saying “In theater there are things that are absolutely, utterly immediate. You are seeing something unique in time and space that will never be duplicated. That is the excitement of theater. But, film captures the continuity of music, you are immersed in it. You are going in a dream in a completely different way”
Sets and costumes designed by David Woodhead, marvelously create a miniature version of the entire world on a single boat, where class division is disparaged. The story is universal as it advocates that once human lives are threatened we are all equal, despite one’s wealth or social status. Those who are traveling with the first class and the lowest class on the Titanic, end up sitting next to each other on a lifeboat to survive.
Another Universal theme of the play is love. Love is experienced by all, despite age, social class, or economic prosperity. We see how Isa (Valda Aviks) and Isador Straus (David Delve), an elderly couple who are the wealthiest people on the Titanic, choose to stay on the boat once it’s sinking to let the younger people take up the limited space, and they choose to die together. Similarly, the relationship of Kate McGowan (Lucie-Mae Sumner) and Jim Farel (Chris Nevin) is full of passion and excitement for the future, even in poverty.
The play tells us a story of a voyage of the largest moving object of the 20th century, traveling from Southampton to New York. After a clash with an iceberg “the unsinkable ship” slowly starts to sink, counting down the last hour of the passengers’ lives. The historical event was remembered as a tragedy, since 1522 people lost their lives. Mr. Yeston spoke about the parallels throughout the history of how people’s ambitions to evolve and save the human kind have a repetitive pattern, such as when Jonas Salk created the first effective vaccine against Polio or when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Therefore, this is why the Titanic is and will always be relevant, since it is a story about aspiration in the most positive way. “The miracles we achieve, sadly we achieve with a sacrifice and the Titanic was a miracle.” said Mr. Yeston.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography.