Where can you find 11,000lbs of fresh fish, 10,000lbs of sugar, 2,000 salt shakers and 1500 cocktail glasses? In 2012 you would find them in a Mega-Sized, Super Wal-Mart perhaps. 100 years ago however, you could find the all of the above aboard the Titanic.
As the screen onstage at Theatre Under the Stars displayed the statistics of the amounts of food and other products brought upon the Titanic, the seats of TUTS cozy outdoor theatre quickly filled up. Between taking in the grandeur of the statistics appearing in front of us and the buzz that outdoor theatre brings, one could not help but feel the same sense of exhilaration that those boarding the Titanic did in 1912.
The opening song introduces Titanic: A New Musical (a Tony award winning production), as romanticism in its finest form. As different classes of passengers, engineers and crew progressively board the liner/ arrive on stage – we learn the hopes, dreams and ambitions that come with a voyage destined to be a legacy. Some characters long for riches, others love, and all revere the dream of progress they are about to take part in. As men wave farewell to their lovers and board the passenger liner created to be a floating sleek and fast cosmopolitan, we come to realize that these characters embody the spirit of the American Dream.
The opening scenes are complete, the characters are aboard the ship, and the audience? Utterly enchanted. The costumes are accurate to any images one would have had in their mind, the sets are simple, effective and engaging, and the music; both ethereal and heroic. It is with this dichotomy that the essence of the musical is captured. Characters long for individualism and recognition, simplicity and progress, equality and difference. The music never falls short of exemplifying the contrast of hope and despair portrayed throughout the show.
Random fact of boating knowledge: 1 knot equals 1.85 km/hr. And yes, this is a fact I searched on Google almost immediately after the show. The Titanic, moving at a speed of 19 knots, is increased in speed almost right away since ‘legends cannot be made with prudence’. This is the first moment where I’m sure most audience members cringe – everything is moving so majestically you almost hope the ending may change. The actors connect so well with the audience that I was left wishing this version would in fact be a redo of history.
Speaking of characters, I would like to think that other audience members were waiting for Jack and Rose to make their entrance for a whirlwind romance of intensity and foggy windows as well. No? Was that just me? Well rest assured that this version took a completely different approach; which was its charm – sorry Leo and Kate. The story didn’t revolve around one character or a couple, or the captain even. It conveyed instead the experience of being on the Titanic from different perspectives. It relates to the hopes of the first class, the struggles of the working class and the tension between the Captains – in capturing the hearts of all the passengers in the progress.
The days of elegant dining, romance, and sharing dreams pass by. As do the warnings the Captain receives every evening in the banquet hall regarding a supposed iceberg and the speed of the ship. Enraptured by the dazzling gowns of first class woman and the dapper suits of the men it is hard to believe, still, that this ship will have its final day; and with that thought the ominous music begins and the intensity grows.
Now the question to be begged is, oh wait, maybe I should warn you first. SPOILER ALERT: the ship sinks. Ok, again. The question to be begged is how do you pull off the sinking of the Titanic in an outdoor theatre production? Effectively! But you have to attend the show yourself in order to find out how it was done.
The second act is every bit as engaging as the first and if you’re anything like me, the journey is every bit as emotional. The director [Max Reimer] with the help of the actors onstage, manage to capture the intensity of separation, survival, regrets of the ships engineering and love in such a way that you can’t help but be hit by the recollection that these were real people 100 years ago, not actors that go home afterwards and sets that are to be stored away.
The 2 hour 48 minute show comes to an end on a unifying note. Classes and differences between characters both dead and alive are abolished in a way only tragedy and sorrow allow for that moment in time. The unity, however, extends further than that. This musical, rich in humanity, destroys any separation between audience and stage, the people on the Titanic in 1912 and the people of today; leaving everyone with a feeling of solidarity in the human experience.
Titanic: A New Musical, in a word, is enchanting. This production moves away from the story being ‘just’ about a boat sinking and into the heart of what made it the tragedy it was. It is a definite must see – just be prepared to wonder “Whatever happened to the people who survived?” – Except Rose, and her emerald and diamond necklace. We all know what happens at the end of that version of the story.
Titanic – A New Musical, shows on August 17th at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.