UCF Celebrates the Arts
Music and lyrics by Maury Yeston
Story and Book by Peter Stone
Directed by Michael Wainstein
Musical Direction by Steven Chicurel-Stein
Orchestral Direction and Conductor Chung Park
Starring Josh Kimball, Earl D. Weaver, and Mark Brotherton
April 5, 2019
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
What’s everyone’s “go to” shipwreck? Why, it’s the infamous “Titanic” of course. With a stack of movie adaptations and the name a code word for disaster and hubris, this ship wreck was destined for Broadway. UCF has chosen it for a two-night performance as part of the annual “UCF Celebrates the Arts,” and the production is impressive if not exactly moving. You may know the story: The White Star line commissions a fast ship, and hot naval architect Thomas Andrew (Kimball) builds it with financial support from J. Bruce Ismay (Weaver). Neither White Star nor the shipyard ever said “Unsinkable,” but they didn’t argue that fact very vocally when the press coined it. Publicity is publicity, after all. The ship is grand and fast, but Ismay pushes Captain Smith (Brotherton) to sail it at it’s limits, hoping for the publicity of a six-day crossing. Publicity he gets; they take shorter, more northerly path with a bigger risk of icebergs. You know the rest.
We have a cast of 55, and each has a small story to relate. On “A” deck, John Astor (Nicholas Stelter) shows off his trophy wife while Isidor and Ida Straus (Thomas Potter and Beverly Rinaldi) are on the prowl for a department store to buy. On “B” deck social climbers literally climb the ladders to crash “A” deck parties while in steerage, Irish immigrants seek work or a stable marriage or better opportunities in New York. And in the boiler room, a young man yearns for his girlfriend back home. Each of these stories feel too easy; and there are too many competing for me to fully invest in any of them. Individual actors are all excellent, but we can’t spend enough time with each to love them properly. Only the bridge crew engages; they are taking risks that seem reasonable, but of course we know better with a century of hindsight. When the Titanic goes down via a very cool projection effect; my thought was “Yeah, what a tragedy. Glad it wasn’t me….”
The musical score swells under the direction of Steven Chicurel-Stein and echos tunes of the day in that overpowering soundtracks effect “important” entertainments fall back upon. It’s thrilling but not engaging, and while I enjoyed the music, it never gave me that “hum it out to the parking lot” thrill I need in a musical. There’s a ton of good work here, and the show is worth a second look, but beyond a nice duet between the Ida and Isadore, I can’t say the music was memorable. “Titanic” is a show I want to love, but it just doesn’t offer a solid rope for me to grasp.