Review: TITANIC THE MUSICAL Gets its Maiden Voyage at Carollwood Cultural Center

The production runs now through March 27th.

By: Mar. 19, 2022
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Review: TITANIC THE MUSICAL Gets its Maiden Voyage at Carollwood Cultural Center

Titanic the Musical opened on Broadway in April of 1997. The musical tells the story of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, or what would soon be aptly named "The Unsinkable Ship." However, as history tells us the ship sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. The 1997 Broadway production won five Tony Awards including Best Musical and was directed by Richard Jones. Following the opening of its Broadway run, Titanic was adapted for film and released the same year in 1997 by James Cameron starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Both of which the musical and film have no correlation to the other.

Maury Yeston who was a Broadway composer and lyricist for Nine was inspired by the discovery of the wreckage of the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland in 1985. Yeston said he was inspired by all the ship represented. So Yeston met with Peter Stone who wrote the libretto and Titanic the Musical was born. Of the five Tony's that Titanic went onto win among them were Best Score, Best Book, Best Orchestrations, Best Scenic Design as well as Best Musical mentioned above. Previews started in 1997 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and received mixed but positive reviews. After 804 performances, Titanic the Musical closed in March of 1999.

Boasting a whopping 20 musical numbers in Act One and 12 in Act Two this behemoth of a musical is grand in design, and song. This musical also features a cast of 37 some doubling multiple roles. Proving to be a huge undertaking for amateur productions and professionals alike.

After two years and five schedule adjustments later the folks at Carrollwood Cultural Center under the Direction of Paul Berg and Musical Direction by Mary Jo Hahn and Michelle Kadonsky-Grant set forth on their Maiden Voyage. Boasting a talented cast of 43 performers of all age ranges, the Company put out all the stops to tell this harrowing and epic tale of the fateful trip. Filled with hope for a new, and dreams of the future the characters we met along the way brought us along on their plight, and for 2.5 hours the cast paid tribute to those who lost their lives on the "Unsinkable Ship."

At the top of the show during the Prologue we meet Thomas Andrews, Titanic's designer, and during the opening number "In Every Age" we watch and listen as he marvels over the feats of Mankind. As more passengers appear we meet Barrett, Harold Bride and Fleet. Soon the crew is seen arriving and we meet Ismay, and Captain E.J. Smith, and the men congratulate one another on their accomplishment. Towards the end of the Prologue we see the arrival of the the 3rd Class, 2nd Class, and 1st Class Passengers, and Titanic has officially embarked. Over the course of the following 2.5 hours we see what happens on that Maiden Voyage that will forever change the course of history.

Thomas Andrews played by Curtis Williams has storyteller built into his actions, and movements. We see his wonder as he marvels at the accomplishments of Mankind. His voice is wonderful here and he should be commended for capturing our spirits from the start as we get ready to set sail.

Frederick Barrett, Stoker played with exceptional gravitas by Chris Cordero is a great addition to the ship's crew. His singing voice is unmatched here and he should be exceptionally proud of his work. "Barrett's Song," and "The Proposal" were standout moments for him.

Harold Bride played by Joseph Conrad is a great addition. He's comedic at times and his moments with Barrett are wonderful! I just wish from our vantage point we were able to see more of what he was doing at the radio booth. I understand space limitations, but sight-lines are an issue here.

Randy Magruder as the Captain is outstanding in his delivery. He takes full responsibility as any Captain should and his moment in Act 2 "The Blame" is a standout trio of power. The beard work on the Captain worked wonderfully and really helped portray the character.

As our 3 Kates, Erin Ruska, Amanda LeFloch, and Jessica Duncan were all wonderful here. Their moment in Act 2 with Farrell, "The Staircase," was exquisite. They were our voyages, Schuyler Sisters and the audience was here for every minute of it.

The company is filled with some exciting talent, some veterans to the stage, and some newcomers. Joel Ferrer, Trevor Rockwell Salmon, Gabe Flores, Aaron Hernandez, Zach "Hippie" Griswold, Carl Canestrano, Mackley Fogarty, Rhett Ricardo, Christopher Kadonsky-Grant, Tony Peter Agati, Rio Ricardo, Reagan Ricardo, Curtis Williams, Bob Sheehan, Jill Finnerty Ricardo, Katie Castonguay, Mackley Fogarty, Mary A. Davis, Caitlein Jayne Jammo, Devan Bittinger, Jenifer Mirin, Terry, LaRosa, James Madden, Alianna Waggoner, Leanne Ferguson, Katie Kocher, Mackenzie Bainer, and Rusty Wirt, and anyone I may have missed, fill the stage to the brim to bring this story to life and should be commended for their work here.

Best in show hands down goes to Craig Ruska as our icy J. Bruce Ismay. He is cold-hearted and commanding and his presence is felt at every turn. There is a moment that happens in Act 2 that you have to witness, as I cannot give it away here. A strong turn here for Craig and he should be exceptionally proud of Ismay, his moment with the Captain "The Blame" is outstanding.

Director Paul Berg steers the ship through its not-so-happy ending and does so with gusto. Set Design was functional and worked for the space allowed. Costumes were fully realized for every character, and as the audience, we knew who every character was as they graced the stage.

There are some technical moments that left me slightly underwhelmed. There were moments of darkness that felt like it went on longer than it should have, I understand the point and the concept but the execution made it feel long in places. There were also mic issues that made it difficult to hear at some points. I understand with a cast as large as 43 it can be a monster trying to find out who is speaking at exactly the right moment. I enjoyed the cast involvement by having them enter and exit via the audience, as it made us feel involved.

However, I can tell space is an issue, and that made it seem daunting to have a cast of that magnitude on such a small playing area. Some scenes seemed a little chaotic at times, and there were moments that felt rushed. There is an issue with liquid on stage, and we all understand or grew up learning the faux pa of having liquid and food on-stage. However, to have clear champagne flutes with nothing in them to resemble champagne felt like a commitment issue, and there were physical moments where the glasses could be seen being taken off the trays with some difficulty. Moments in the smoking quarters during the card games, miming lighters completely pulls us out of the moment, a slight adjustment with matches might fix this issue, although unsure about fire codes, etc within the space.

Titanic the Musical is on stage at Carrollwood Cultural Center through March 27th. You can head on over to carrollwoodcenter.org for tickets to this Maiden Voyage. Come early and experience the Gallery's display Shipwreck by Dan Podsibinski. Titanic the Musical will forever be a staple of Classic Musical Theatre, full of beautiful music, and a harrowing tale of hope and dreams for a brave new adventure. So aboard the RMS Titanic, you'll find something for everyone! The cast and crew set out to tell this story and honor those lost on the fateful trip, I can say with certainty they have done just that.

PHOTO CREDIT: CARROLLWOOD CULTURAL CENTER



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