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Titanic (Review)

NKU musical succeeds with logistics, misses on the artistry

By Tom McElfresh · December 5th, 2009 · Onstage

Yes, the ship sinks. Happily, the musical does not. Titanic, that is, now onstage with a cast of 37 at Northern Kentucky University. There are some lurches and hesitations, some missteps and technical uncertainties, which is odd, considering that director Mark Hardy is the canny magician who last season staged The Women at NKU with such larking aplomb.

Logistically, this Titanic is mostly up to the difficulties. Composer-lyricist Maury Yeston and author Peter Stone have created a show with close to continuous music, solos for more than 20 people, huge choral numbers and frequent shifts of scene from bow to stern. The cast members are nicely matched to their music and to each other. There’s good vocal balance, although there were brass clinkers from the pit on opening night, some jerky light changes and a few delayed scene starts.

The show has memorable moments from the noble captain and his crew and from the cowardly ship owner. The ship’s architect frantically searches his blueprints for design flaws as the water rises. I won’t give away how Hardy and company sink the ship, but they make it happen quite effectively. Stone created a raft of sketchy characters, each with little depth and a single defining quirk. Few of the young actors found ways to color outside the lines.

You know the news story: April,1912. Maiden voyage of an ultra-luxurious liner with 1,343 passengers on board and 885 crew members. Three nights out, iceberg! The Titanic sinks and 1,523 people drown. The show’s biggest problem is that you know how it ends.

A successful production will make the first two hours seem jubilant and ominous and will help audience members do more than sit awaiting the inevitable. This trick Hardy and his students, for all their brio, don’t quite pull off.

TITANIC, presented by Northern Kentucky University, continues through Dec. 13 in Corbett Theatre. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.


12.06.2009 at 04:53 Reply
Is the reviewer talking about the same production I saw. I attended NKU's Titanic (which received a long standing ovation the night I was there). The talent on stage @ NKU is teriffic. Individually each character was compelling. As an ensemble, among the best voices I have heard in any musical. On opening night the orchestra tract faultered. Otherwise the orchestration would have been much fuller as intended. To the rescue Jamie Strawn who at a moments notice played the score on his keyboard. Not intended but very effective. No one in the audience knew. I am probably letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak. The cast had to make a last minute adjustments to this as well. No one conducting. Except for a head movement here & there the cast was on there own feeding off each other to be sure as not to miss an entrance. On top of everything else this is quite a situation to be thrust into. I will see the show again (with orchestra tract intact I hope). Good thing I got my tickets already. If week one is any indication Tiatanic will be SRO.