BWW Review: TITANIC is Huge at Servant Stage

BWW Review: TITANIC is Huge at Servant Stage

Servant Stage has done some great work, of course. They've put together delightful revues of everything from the Great American Songbook to gospel to bluegrass, and taken them on the road to nursing homes, parks, and other places that truly can use live professional entertainment. Over the past couple of years, however, they've also gotten more settled into single-location larger productions, still on their pay-what-you-will plan that gives them outreach to those who can't afford high ticket prices.

This year they've taken on the rightly gigantic Broadway production TITANIC by Peter Stone and Maury Yeston, a multiple Tony nominee and winner. The response has been, rightly, equally huge -- over ten thousand area residents came to the Lancaster Bible College auditorium to see and hear the hit musical about the sinking of the unsinkable ship. Servant Stage's largest work, with a cast of over 60 performers, was spot-on, and a worthy rival to shows produced at some of the area's best established professional theatrical houses. Both in the show chosen and in Servant Stage's casting and production, this was a worthy competitor to even the Fulton Theatre's excellent work. Servant Stage is poised to become a major player in the local theatrical market with shows of this quality.

Wally Calderon's direction was matched by Kendra Bigley's musical direction with one of both the largest and certainly finest pit orchestras that's been seen or heard of late in the area. Yeston's music was put on excellent display by the pit musicians, who easily could have given their own musical performance as an orchestral ensemble as well as playing for a show. It's only fair that an orchestra for this show be that fine, as it's a symphonically scored musical. There are layers to Yeston's music in this that don't appear in some of his other work, and they're wonderful to hear.

As for the stage performers, the cqsting was an inspired mix of professional performers with students from Lancaster Bible College's performing arts students and faculty. Some of the performers are indeed among the area's best -- Jessica Dey as Katherine McGowan, the leader of the "Three Kates," Ric Zimmerman as John Jacob Astor, and fresh-from-Broadway Reji Woods as head steward Henry Etches, giving the smaller role a huge boost with his laudable tenor solo moments, among others.

Jim Moyer is one of the stars as Captain EJ Smith, ready to retire after the maiden voyage of the much-hyped ship, with Rob Bigley as White Star Line owner J. Bruce Ismay, charmingly displaying Ismay's concern for speed at the expense of safety, and Tyler Hoover as the ship's designer Thomas Andrews, who discovers too late that his original plans were altered by Ismay at the expense of the ship's safety.

And then there's the part-narrator, second-class passenger Alice Beane, played with comic flair by Sarah Zahn, whose sole goal of the voyage is to crash the first-class passengers' events in order to meet celebrities. It is Beane and Estes who introduce the audience to a crowd of dignitaries and socialites of over a century ago and illustrate their importance to the public.Jon Rider and Donna Schilke play the elderly Isador Strauss, owner of Macy's, and his wife Ida, who choose to stay behind together on the ship so that they won't be separated at the ends of their lives. The Strauss story is one of the great charms of the show.

TITANIC is in many ways a huge improvement on the melodramatic popular movie; rather than focusing on the doomed love of a third-class passenger and a first-class passenger, we see the relationships between couples of all levels, the difficulties of escape for each group, and the strife between the ship's officers and the White Star Line over expectations for the ship, the matter that helps destroy it in the end.

As with JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, you know how it's going to end when you walk in. The question for a first-time audience member at either show is just how the show will get to that end. TITANIC does it in a way that combines tugging at heartstrings with comedy, edge-of-seat tension, and great songs.

Servant Staage will be bringing up the end of the year with its production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Now that it's accomplished this level of production value, we expect more great things. Visit servantstagecompany.com for further details and information.

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From This Author Marakay Rogers

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