Given the pedigree of Titanic The Musical…five Tony Awards…Mark Clements could do no wrong bringing it to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Quadracci Main Stage. Given the size of the cast and the numerous scene changes, this is a daunting production to stage and Clements made use of every inch of the Quadracci thrust stage.
And as I mentioned in the headline, this play is Spectacle. So where ever you are seated, don’t blink or you are going to miss something. And make sure the swivel in your neck is full on because in the ensemble pieces, there is action all across the stage. So it’s easy to focus on the spotlighted actor at every opportunity, but don’t forget to sweep across the stage with your eyes to make sure you take in everything that is going on. The Titanic is after all the biggest moving object of its time!
Clements needs to be applauded on the blocking and staging of this complex play. The cast seems to move effortless around each other whether during the gala and festive dining and dancing scenes, the many ensemble singing numbers, and of course the attempts to organize the evacuation of the ship during its sinking. Bravo!
But the unsung heroes here are really the scenic designer, Tim Mackabee, who’s simple (and quite mobile) but identifiable settings let us know where we were in the ship. The beautiful formal dining room, the bridge with the dramatic wheel, the various deck scenes, to the dance set, to glimpses into the first class suites as the crew wake the guests on that fateful night. And my favorite set: the radio room with the ghosts of old radio equipment and the clack clack clack of the telegraph was just quaintly defining of that older era of communications.
And the other miracle worker here is Alexander B. Tecoma, who is the costume designer. Given the size of the cast, the number of different scenic locales, and the period more than a 100 years ago, the costuming was just right and completely evocative of the time and the class differences. Something to see on its own.
And back to the characters who make up the story line of the play. Emma Rose Brooks is simply phenomenal as the Irish lass, Kate McGowan, She is determined, sure of herself, a bit wronged in the Old Country, and is set to make it right in America. One of the cleverest characters is Alice, played to the hilt by Lillian Castillo! She is sure that we are now in a new world of a classless society and she is determined to meet and greet and hobnob with the rich and famous who reside in first class. So her sometimes successful attempts provide a bit of humor as the steward tries everything possible to show her the ‘door’!
Brian Krinsky plays Jim Farrell, another Irishman heading for the new world. He doesn’t quite know what to make of Kate McGowan at first, but agrees to marry her nonetheless when SHE asks HIM!
And despite the number of romantic stories told here, maybe the most enduring…well certainly…they’ve been married 40 years…involves Philip Hoffman as Isidor Straus and Carrie Hitchcock as Ida Straus…his love match and equal in life…an endearing couple still very much in love!
But watch for Lainey Techtmann if you are fortunate to have her in your production of the play. She was Tiny Tim in last year’s A Christmas Carol and her smooth movements and antics around her parents and crew and fellow passengers will thrill your heart. She certainly has some professional chops already for someone who’s only in third grade!
So…Titanic The Musical runs from now through May 14, 2022. Here is the link for more information and to order tickets on line. There are a few other items to enjoy at that link including some short videos with the cast and director.
P.S. You will be handed a ‘boarding pass’ on entry. You can use the printed QR code to see if your passenger survived or not with a bit of back story at a kiosk in the lobby.
all photos courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater except where noted.