Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Theater Review: TITANIC at Hangar Theater

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:55


I had the privilege of being able to see one of my all-time FAVORITE musicals, TITANIC, amazingly staged at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater this weekend. The original production debuted in 1997. It was one of the most expensive shows ever produced; and its special effects were breathtaking. The stage sunk, flares were shot-off in the theater, and the set was multi-tiered which gave the show incredible complexity. This staging, of course, was devoid of the special effects that made the original Broadway production so memorable. Instead, the show is scaled down in both cast and orchestra and must rely on its soaring and lush score to give it legs. To say that this production is a success is an understatement.

The intimacy of the Hangar Theater makes this TITANIC sail! The set is basically a scaffolding with a curtain behind it. Various images are projected on the curtain and on two large black screens to the left and right of center-stage throughout the show. The orchestra is behind the stage and the cast of 20 (many of whom were members of the original Broadway cast) perform each role with absolute perfection. Alma Cuervo (Ida Strauss) has been with the production since its inception on Broadway and stands out here as one of the most memorable. In addition, Joneal Joplin (Cpt. Smith), Tony-Award winner Drew McVety (Henry Etches),  Tom Hewitt (Thomas Andrews), and Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone (Harold Bride) give stunning performances in their respective roles.

The orchestrations are scaled down for this production. But, it doesn’t show. This is perhaps due to the original Broadway musical director Kevin Stites’ reprisal of his duties for this production. And although the story of the TITANIC is well known; the performances here are fresh, intimate, and perfected to a T. We were treated on Saturday to a talk-back session with the cast, creative crew, and perhaps most significantly, the show’s composer Maury Yeston. He and the rest of the cast answered questions from the audience, gave a recollection of this production and its Broadway incarnation, and discussed the humanistic perspective that makes this show one of the best to ever grace the stages of the Great White Way.

In closing, it’s important to also note the director of  this staging of TITANIC–Don Stephenson. Not only has he given us a gem of a staging of the show at the Hangar, he was also a member of the original Broadway cast of TITANIC. He played the role of Edgar Beane and I was curious to see how he would treat the character in this staging. Phillip Hoffman plays the role here and he does so exquisitely.  Stephenson directed him and the rest of the cast quite well. Hoffman is complemented by none other than Christine Tisdale, who plays his wife Alice, who learns to regret not appreciating what his second class husbandry could provide as the fate of her husband becomes clearer. Both come from TITANIC’s national tour. And like this entire production, they have mastered the perfection and quality that makes this TITANIC staging stand-out as absolutely phenomenal! TITANIC plays at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater through July 28th.


  1. Mr Andrews is played (brilliantly) by Tom Hewitt, of Dracula and Rocky Horror fame. Not Bob Cuccioli.

    Comment by Brett — Saturday, July 21, 2012 @ 14:42

  2. Thanks Brett! Correction made. 😉

    Comment by Dr. Christopher Blackwell — Saturday, July 21, 2012 @ 16:55

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