Almost 100 years to the day the RMS Titanic sank, and almost exactly 10 years since Diamond Head Theatre in Honolulu first presented "Titanic the Musical," DHT's "centennial production" of the Tony Award-winning show captures the human elements of the epic maritime tragedy in fresh and emotionally engaging form.
The ship's last moments above water seem more terrifying than in the previous production, and various real-life characters register differently this time, but the emotional impact is just as intense. The production values -- cast, music, sets and technical support -- are superb as well.
Larry Paxton gives a stellar performance as the designated hero, shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, and Scott Moura reprises his excellent portrayal of the designated villain, J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line.
Andrews designed the Titanic to Ismay's specifications with watertight bulkheads only up to C deck so the first-class staterooms could be larger, and with fewer lifeboats than Andrews recommended so well-heeled passengers would have more deck space. When the Titanic hits the iceberg, Andrews is the only one to express much concern for the hundreds of people who inevitably will die.
Ismay is seen several times telling the ship's captain he expects the Titanic to cross the Atlantic at record-setting speed, and once the ship is fatally damaged, he blames Andrews for the design flaws and the captain for hitting the iceberg, assuming no personal responsibility.
Paxton and Moura are powerful singers and accomplished actors. Gerald Altwies (Capt. E.J. Smith) earns his place as the third member of the central dramatic triangle with a nicely shaded portrayal of a competent professional who allows his boss's nagging to affect his judgment.
Drew Tandal (first-class steward Henry Etches) delivers such a convincing portrayal of an impeccably proper British man-of-service that it is impossible not to invest emotionally in his character's fate. A scene in which Etches brings two doomed passengers a bottle of champagne as a final courtesy is one of the highlight moments in an excellent performance.
Cody Garner (Frederick Barrett) makes a memorable DHT debut as the engine room crewman who sneaks up to the radio room hoping to send a message to his girl back home. Garner's command of lyrics and emotion makes "The Proposal" the emotional musical highlight of Act 1.
John Mount, as Macy's tycoon Isidor Straus, and Tracy Yamamoto, as wife Ida, accomplish the same feat with "Still," an eloquent expression of timeless love, in Act 2.
Braddoc DeCaires has one of the few genuinely funny moments with the bit part of a passenger who literally misses the boat and is left on the dock fuming about his "bad luck." Zenia Zambrano Moura (Alice Beane) makes effective use of her comic skills in the larger role of a second-class passenger who flouts convention by sneaking into first class to rub elbows with the super-rich.
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