Titanic (Review)

NKU musical succeeds with logistics, misses on the artistry

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.
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