News Column

'Titanic' is incredible, not-to-be missed musical theater

August 15, 2014

By William Kerns, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas



Aug. 15--We could not make our way to New York City to see the production of "Titanic," which later would be handed a Tony Award set aside for that particular year's Best Musical.

Back then, though, it was not unusual for me to purchase a Broadway soundtrack before I saw the play, then try to visualize accompanying action.

True, my wife accepted my nerd-like hobbies before we married. But thank goodness a national tour of "Titanic" had confirmed a visit within months at the State Fair Music Hall in Dallas.

That one, we certainly did not miss.

I mention that bit of family background just so I can add that the present Lubbock Moonlight Musical production of "Titanic" -- even produced outdoors -- is just as good, if not better, than the professional show that toured only the country's largest cities.

In other words, every time Moonlight Musicals seems to set the bar higher (say, this summer with "South Pacific"), an entire theater company soon arrives, already on the same page, determined to make audiences smile, shed a tear and, most of all, care about lives lost to human pride and class prejudice.

This is a play -- beautifully lit, sung and acted -- that uses its honesty to haul visitors back to an era only slightly more than a century ago, when a new, so-called unsinkable ship is expected to make the trip from England to America in record time.

Not so much for the passengers it carries, but rather for the mail that is only mentioned once or twice.

The fuel pushing many passengers, of only varied importance to the ship's crew, is dreams.

Consider, for example, beautiful harmonies set by "the three Kates" in third class, no longer settling for a husband giving orders.

Even before settled into steerage, they're willing to sing of futures they can feel. Melissa Arnold, Sarah Clementine Mire and Kelsie Curry sing in sparkling fashion of plans to become a lady's maid, a governess and a full-time, all-the time sewing girl.

The orchestra, some 17 pieces, must have been chosen one-by-one by music director Ian Aipperspach, as these musicians, time and again, give the show more life.

Mike Morgan is perfect as the ship's captain, elegant and wanting to lean on the side of safety, as he has for four decades. Yet he now seems more willing to chase speed records on his last ocean voyage, either to please new ship owner J. Bruse Ismay (played by Travis Taylor) or just keep Ismay off his back.

Taylor nags like someone used to having his way. But some of his best scenes are wordless, his guilt and cowardice both obvious after he somehow sneaks aboard a lifeboat reserved for women and children.

Director Gerald Dolter's supporting characters, often including crew members, are able to quickly help set scenes before providing realistic, brief conversations.

Speaking of realism, a totally unexpected scream emerging from one of the lifeboats creates chills.

Mass harmonies are nothing short of gorgeous, making the cast sound even larger by coming from so many directions.

Candice Aipperspach is nothing shy of a hoot as second class character Alice, who isn't at all happy unless she's hobnobbing with those in first class. Her character also is used to introduce the floating city's millionaires in often hilarious fashion.

Still, I saved the names of three actors because, while their ensemble work is superb, each has memorable individual moments.

Ian Klotzman is a standout when singing of the dangers surrounding all on board as increased speeds are delivered as orders; this is "Barrett's Song." But when radioman Harold Bride (Travis Burge) offers a so-called ship "discount," Barrett changes persona as his wedding proposal is delivered to his girlfriend back home in England -- in Morse code.

Burge also impresses throughout, and it is not unusual to discover Bride and Barrett singing together, at times leading the fleet.

Think "The Night Was Alive" and especially "Fare-Thee-Well."

Frank Rendon is a great choice to portray Thomas Andrews, the ship's designer. He provides his own romance when singing "In Every Age." Indeed, one has to admire his refusal to give up, continuing to mark changes on a sketch via "Mr. Andrews' Vision," until it sinks in that, soon enough, his only vision will be from beneath icy waves.

The decision to allow survivors and the dead to sing a reprise of "Godspeed Titanic" together is almost as eerie as learning why there were too few lifeboats, and how more than 1,500 souls could go down with their ship an hour away from land.

This is incredible theater, not to be missed.

william.kerns@lubbockonline.com

--766-8712

Follow William on Twitter

@AJ_WilliamKerns

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(c)2014 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas)

Visit the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) at www.lubbockonline.com

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Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX)


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