Post November Show Review: Titanic
Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! It’s time for my monthly show review, and this month, I’ll be talking about Titanic. It opened on Broadway in 1997, and despite initial technical difficulties (the hydraulic ship was reluctant to sink), it went on to win the 1997 Tony Award for Best musical.
I know what you’re wondering and let me settle that right now: the plot of the musical is not at all related to the James Cameron film of the same year, except for the fact that they’re based on the same historical event. The musical does not focus on just one love story; instead, it employs a large ensemble cast that showcases the disparity between the social classes.
My favorite thing about this musical is how much heart everyone has. They’re sailing across the ocean to fulfill their wildest dreams, whether those be to become a “lady’s maid,” to elope with their true love, to rise above class barriers, or to command a record-breaking ship. What’s so devastating for the audience is the dramatic irony; the audience knows what the characters don’t yet know: that the ship will never make it to America.
Here’s one of my favorite songs from the show. Barrett, who works in the boiler room, visits Bride, the telegraph operator, and asks him to send a message back to his Darlene:
Both of these characters are just so earnest and adorable. Barrett’s proposal is poetic, yet heartfelt:
” Be thee well
May the lord who watches all watch over thee
May God’s heaven be your blanket as you softly sleep
When you’re finally in my arms you’ll plainly see
This devoted sailor’s heart and soul
Are yours to keep!”
Be still my heart. Who would say no to that? Again, it’s heartbreaking, because although he swears, “I’ll be coming back to you, Darlene,” he never makes it off the ship.
Another amazing song is “Mr. Andrew’s Vision.” As the ship sinks, Mr. Andrews, the designer of the Titanic, looks over the blueprints and laments the small design flaw that is allowing such a huge catastrophe.
Mr. Andrew’s prediction of the ship’s demise is heartbreaking. He describes what will physically happen to the ship (“down sinks the bow, up flies the stern to the sky”), but he also sings about the behavior of the passengers. You can hear the guilt in his voice as he foresees the chaos and brutality that will ensue.
I’m realizing now that this review paints a rather bleak view of the show, but I promise it’s not all dark and depressing. Somehow that notion of human achievement, of people striving to fulfill their dreams, remains at the end of the show. The company returns to the stage for the finale, singing a reprise of one of the early songs:
“In every age mankind attempts
To fabricate great works
At once magnificent
On desert sands, from mountains of stone
From flying buttresses alone
A wall of light!
A chapel ceiling
Screaming one man’s ecstasy!
One man’s ecstasy…
Miracles them all!
China’s endless wall…
Stonehenge, The Parthenon, The Duomo
The aqueducts of Rome”
That song places the Titanic amongst the great feats of humanity, despite its tragic end.
Have any of you seen the musical? What did you think?