I have mixed feelings about the production of Titanic (directed by Don Stephenson, who was a member of the original Broadway cast back in 1997) now at the Westchester Broadway dinner theater. On the plus side, the refined, stately score by Maury Yeston contains some truly lovely melodies, which I enjoyed hearing. But too many of the musical numbers are slow and similar in feel, and the first act of the show is sluggish. (There's more drama and a brisker pace in the second act.) There are several very good performances in this production—most notably Adam Heller's portrayal of J. Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line, and William Parry's portrayal of Captain Edward J. Smith. But Peter Stone's book is cluttered with too many characters, giving the show almost the feeling of a pageant. We do not come to know the characters well enough to bond with them. And, when the ship eventually sinks, we feel somewhat removed, detached. We know that many people lost their lives on the Titanic, but our emotions are not touched as strongly as they are in the film Titanic; there, the screenplay wisely focuses on two characters, and we come to care about them; when one of them finally dies, we're deeply affected. Peter Stone's book does not make us care very much about any of the many characters we meet. The original Broadway production (capitalized at $10 million) was one of the most expensive shows ever mounted on Broadway up until that time. Its big, lavish set made up for some of the deficiencies in the script and score. Here, with very little in terms of a set, the weaknesses in the script and score seem more apparent than ever.
Pictured: (L-R) William Parry (as Captain Smith), Jeremy Ellison Gladstone (as Harold Bride), Tom Hewitt (as Thomas Andrews) and Adam Heller (as J Bruce Ismay) (Photo by John Vecchiolla)
February 1, 2014