Opera House Players, Broadbrook, CT
through May 21, 2017
by Michael J. Moran
Referring to the small Opera House stage in her “Director’s Notes,” Sharon FitzHenry says the OHP production of “Titanic” “turns the focus back [from the ship] to the men and women of that fateful night” in April 1912, when this “floating city” sank in the North Atlantic only five days into its maiden voyage, killing 1,517 of its 2,200+ passengers and crew. Her cast of 21 singing actors brings over 50 characters to vivid and memorable life.
With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston (“Nine”) and a book by Peter Stone (“1776”), the original Broadway production opened in 1997, when it won all five Tony awards it was nominated for, including Best Musical. Perhaps the reason no actors were nominated is that “Titanic” calls for a true ensemble effort. While there’s not a weak link in the OHP cast, several standouts deserve special praise.
As the triumvirate who share “The Blame” (in Act II) for the disaster, Dennis J. Scott portrays Captain Smith with affecting dignity; Stephen Jewell gives Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer, a tragic pride; and Tim Reilly invests Titanic owner J. Bruce Ismay with obnoxious bluster. Tara Kennedy is a hoot as upwardly striving second-class passenger Alice Beane, and more laughs come when another character muses, “Maybe I should go into politics; then I wouldn’t have to know anything.”
Musical highlights include: the stirring anthem “There She Is,” heartily chanted by most of the company; the haunting “No Moon,” rendered by Andrew D. Secker as lookout Frederick Fleet; and the lovely duet “Still,” tenderly sung by Jayne Newirth and Glenn Gordon as an aging couple, the Strauses (he co-owned Macy’s), who refuse to separate and perish together.
Flexible set design by director FitzHeny and Francisco Aguas allows for quick and seamless scene transitions by cast members in shadow to atmospheric underscoring by musical director Bill Martin’s crack four-person band. Lively choreography by Aileen Merino Terzi for the “Doing the Latest Rag” scene, sensitively varied lighting by FitzHenry, and brilliant period costumes by Moonyean Field also make this transporting production a must-see.