*****It has been over 100 years since the Titanic went down. The greatest ship ever built, belived to be “unsinkable”, of course, did sink and the story has bene told many times since. Most famous is the feature film with its love story about the young people making the maiden voyage to America, but there is also a musical that tells the story. Now, this Tony Award winning musical has been re-tooled as a “chamber musical”, built for a smaller venue and more intimate experience for its audience. With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston (who brought us the “other” version of “The Phantom of the Opera”) and a book by Peter Stone, this unique piece take sus through the trip from boarding to sinking in a bit more than two hours and twenty minutes with a solid cast of players. In what seems like a cast of hundreds of actors, twenty very talented performers take on many roles to make us feel as if we are indeed boarding a boat that is filled with crew and passengers.
Directed by Scott Weinstein on the stage (number three) at Theater Wit, we are taken on a glorious cruise. In fact, the cruise of our lives. The story is masterfully told so the set design by Joe Schermoly, allowing for a few staircases to be moved from side to side along the two story backdrop allows us to keep with the story instead of being enthralled by the fabulous scenery (as the original Broadway In Chicago production had). This is a clean show with very little to distract us from the story of that fateful trip. Christopher Kriz’ sound and Sawyer Smith’s Choreography along with the delightful period costumes by Rachel Sypniewski all ass to the story telling as do the props (Jamie Karas) and projections by Paul Deziel. This is strong tech program on a very small stage in a very small theater, but as much as the music (directed by Elizabeth Doran with new orchestrations by Ian Weinberger) bring to the reshaping of this epic tale, it is the cast assembled that bring the story to life. This one is sheer perfection.
Griffin Theatre Company has taken on this launch of the new version of “Titanic” and I am glad they decided to tackle this major project. This is a true “ensemble piece” and they have proven just how strong they are with this production. each and every cast member, from the lead roles to the waiters and cabin boys does what is asked of them (and more) from start to finish. We learn a great deal about the people who boarded this ship; their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Who they loved and or left behind in oder to start anew. The movie version concentrates on a part of the story, but this particular production centers in to what Paul Harvey may call “The Rest of the story”!
We learn about the classes and how the rich lived and were served in a different way then the second and third class travelers. We learn about the captain and his life as well as the man who was at the helm when the ship hit the iceberg that would seal their fate. The man who designed the ship wa son board as was the owned of the line. Each and every little story leads us to see the inner feelings of the people whose fates changed on that week in April in the year 1012.
While the music is nothing to write home about, it has moments that will hold you and certainly keep you into the story. The opening number is about 12 minutes in length and the final song about the same, they are great at getting us into the mindset of the characters we are meeting and have met and for that I applaud the creator Maury Yeston. I also think kudos should go out to the six musicians who are backstage and bring the music to life. Since we do not see the “pit” it is easy to think that the music is “canned” but it is live with Elizabeth Doran at the keyboard and Ethan Deppe (percussion),Merrick Jones (cello), Scott Dickenson (bass), Elena Spiegel (Violin) and Lerryn Schaefer (viola)- great job!
As I said, a great ensemble. They all deserve mention for the quality they have brought to this production;Kelly Abell as Kate Murphy, Justin Adair as Fred Barret, Neala Barron as Alice Beane, Joshua Bartlett as Charles Lightoller, Patrick Byrnes as Murdoch (the second to the Captain), Matt Edmonds as Charles Clarke, Nick Graffagna, Emily Grayson,Courtney Jones as Kate McGowan, John Keating, Royen Kent, Josh Kohane, Eric Lindahl, Scott Allen Luke, Jake Mahler as Edgar Beane, Laura McClain, Christine Perkins as Kate Mullins, Kevin Stangler, Sean Thomas and Peter Vanvakas as Captain Smith. Twenty people- 50 plus characters, or more.
“Titanic” will continue at Theatre Wit located at 1229 West Belmont Avenue through December 7th with performances as follows:
Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $39 with discounts for students and seniors ($5) and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 773-975-8150 or online at www.theatrewit.org
To learn more about Griffin visit www.griffintheatre.com
to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Titanic”.
Parking is available on the street ( some metered, some not and at Coopers ( try the pulled pork sandwich-wow!).