Fifth show “Titanic,” the musical opened Thursday at Timber Lake Playhouse of Mt. Carroll. Every production in its 55th season has proved that the theatre in the woods can deliver one astonishing show after another.
”Titanic” is fashioned after the story and book by Peter Stone with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and orchestrations by Ian Weinberger. Award-winning “Titanic” opened on Broadway in 1997 as a larger cast of 37, too large to tour in regional theatres. It was pared down to cast fewer in 2013, thus missing an opportunity for TLP to celebrate the century mark of the ill-fated ship of 1912.
Never mind that because the show is here and now and we love it!
With all the skeletal remains of ships lying in darkness at the bottom of oceans all over, we continue our fascination with the Titanic. Touted the world’s largest moving object at its launching in the early 20th century, it gathered steam adjective after adjective; “the biggest,” “the newest” “the best” – any word that ended with “est.” The chorus of braggadocio seemed to defy any notion that Mother Nature would ultimately be in charge, calling the vessel “unsinkable.”
Artistic director James Beaudry brought an indomitable magic touch to the show with all his staging experience over the last some fifteen years at TLP. That would include the tangible results of vintage moves, authentic in delivery because of his love of research. After all, most of his resume includes shows before he, the cast and in this case, the audience were born.
But Beaudry also communicates an intangible quality to the cast where hope overcomes each face looking out over the vastness beyond the theater in song “The Launching,” and also the quality of arrogance among men whose desire for headlines trumped caution.
At the helm of hope and arrogance is Captain Smith, so famously his last voyage and last words “…every man for himself.” Guest actor Pat Flaherty takes the rather complicated role that develops from being an early somewhat ego-infested aggrandizement while entertaining the ladies of first class and giving polite orders underneath. When panic sets in after warning by Lookout Luke Stewart, Flaherty takes on the persona of lyrical gruffness as displayed in song “The Blame” with Kieran McCabe as ships owner Bruce Ismay and Alec Irion as Thomas Andrews, designer and builder.
When the full company choruses itself into lyrics of emotional expression, it performs an impactful rendition by the hinted use of harmonies in the round. Song “No Moon” begins with sporadic couples in all classes in love and gradually develops into panic in the round as peril fills the decks. Third Class characters The Three Kates by Caroline Kasay, Jesic West and Annalise Griswold sing cheerful “Lady’s Maid” with hints of in the round with their wannabe wishes upon arrival in New York.
Extraordinarily notable is song “I Give You My Hand” by Olivia Kaufmann and Ken Singleton as second class passengers Caroline Neville and Charles Clarke. So brilliantly executed is the duet that if you shut your eyes you might sail an ocean away to an opera house of highest nobility.
Chandler Smith takes on stoking the fires beneath as well as his romantic side as he sends a heartfelt message via guest actor Roy Brown as sappy telegrapher. Also special guests Rus Rainear and Judy Knudtson sing a tearful “Still” as the famous couple resolved “…as we have lived together, we shall die together.” Guest actors Andrew Sickel as First Officer Murdoch, Hunter Lindner as Officer Lightoller also highlight “No Moon” while Ross Shenker as Second Class Edgar Beane joins the rest of the company.
There are no small roles in this production that include guest performer Lauren McKee with resident company members Shayla Brielle, Elya Bottiger, Matthew Salvatore, Levi Skoog, Tyler Klingbiel and Luke Stewart as a famous Lookout for the ages.
Scenic design by Arnel Sancianco is brilliantly crafted to be a major character in itself. The austereness of its plain lines of steel, angles and rivets hold in the palm of its protruding bows the delicate romance and emotional effects within. Moreover, the rotating set changes mood in an instant from those who fall in or out of love. A foggy white scrim sets the stage before the show begins.
Moving music by Cindy Blanc and Andrew Milliken round out the show.
Bring tissues to this must-see show. “Titanic” continues through Sunday August 7 including four 2 p.m. matinees. Evening shows at 7:30 p.m. (No show Monday August 8.) The boonies theatre is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, Mount Carroll. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets, group rates and more information. Don’t miss the cash bar before and during the show!