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a Musical
by Peter Stone (book) and Maury Yeston (songs)

COMPANY : Serenbe Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Inn Meadow at Serenbe [WEBSITE]
ID# 5313

SHOWING : July 10, 2018 - August 19, 2018



To find a better life, we must get on that ship… board our ship of dreams this summer as we mount a larger than life floating world full of magical impossibilities. An ensemble cast of 40 Playhouse favorites and Atlanta all-stars will board a three-story structure representing the largest and fastest ship of its time: Titanic, constructed in the middle of a lake, which will be submerged nightly. Honor will be paid to those who boarded this ill-fated voyage as we celebrate their stories of hope, heartbreak, and strength. Godspeed Titanic, Sail On!

Director Brian Clowdus
Sub Lt. Joseph Boxhall Andrew Joseph Andersen
Charlotte Drake Cardoza Emily Budd
Charles Lightoller Blake Burgess
Madeleine Astor Erin Burnett
Charles Clarke Daniel Burns
Harold Bride Chase Davidson
Marion Thayer Jessica De Maria
Caroline Neville Ally Duncan
Ninette Aubert Arielle Geller
J. Bruce Ismay Robert Lee Hindsman
Eleanor Widener Asia Howard
Alice Beane Shannon McCarren
Captain E.J. Smith Eric McNaughton
Frederick Barrett Chase Peacock
Rosalie Ida Straus Lilliangina Quinones
Lt. William Murdoch Chris Saltalamacchio
Henry Etches Ben Thorpe
Kate Murphy India Sada Tyree
Isidor Straus Robert Wayne
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by playgoer
Friday, August 10, 2018
Don’t be surprised if in the middle of "Titanic" the iceberg instantaneously evaporates, coalesces into a dark cloud overhead, and comes pouring down on you. It’s all part of the experience in getting the audience as drenched as the cast members who throw themselves into the water as the ship sinks. But, if you’re lucky, both you and the show will be survivors that go on to complete the evening’s journey, although the journey may not end before midnight.

Adam Koch’s set design consists of massive scaffolding with four playing levels and extensions fore and aft that mimic the outline of a ship. Four smokestacks on top complete the picture of a ship, and docking that unmoors from the shore and moves to the ship after passengers have boarded provides additional playing space. With a cast of forty, a lot of playing space is needed.

Early on, we’re led to believe that the top level contains the captain’s wheelhouse, the next level down is first class, and the next two levels down are second class and third class respectively. Director Brian Clowdus violates this schema occasionally, placing some action inappropriately on the first class level, perhaps to take advantage of "hot spots" in Kevin Frazier’s lighting design.

The lighting design is excellent, making great use of spotlights to focus attention on the primary singing characters in ensemble numbers. Bobby Johnson’s sound design is equally excellent, letting everything possible be heard (although massed singing and counterpoint in ensemble numbers inevitably results in a bit of muddiness). The sound effect of the Titanic hitting the iceberg is awe-inspiring.

In a cast of forty, it’s hard for an actor to stand out. All are fine singers and acquit themselves nicely, but some are given very little opportunity to shine. Many, given the opportunity, prefer to blend in rather than to stand out. The performances I found most noteworthy were Robert Hindsman as J. Bruce Ismay, the closest thing to a villain in the plot; Shannon McCarren as social-climbing Alice Beane; Chase Peacock as stoker Frederick Barrett; and sweet-voiced Chris Saltalamacchio as Lt. William Murdoch. Also notable are Chase Davidson as junior wireless officer Harold Bride and Ben Thorpe as first-class steward Henry Etches, who both make the most of their roles.

Given the age-blind, race-blind casting of the show, not everything rings true. That’s particularly the case with the first-class men, who are supposed to be wealthy titans of the business world, but who appear to have the age and talent of acting apprentices. When John Jacob Astor (Charles Fowler) is introduced as being decades older than his 19-year-old bride Madeleine (Erin Burnett), the age discrepancy seems to be in the opposite direction. It’s an unfortunate casting misstep in the production, reinforced by the decision to have the men light up cigars whose smoke wafts into the audience.

This production of "Titanic" is as much a spectacle as a musical. Chris Brent Davis’ music direction is excellent, with the orchestra sounding true and lush throughout, and Bubba Carr’s choreography works well for a structure floating on the water, with not a lot of wide-open spaces to make use of. From the start, Alan Yeong’s costumes tend toward the white and diaphanous, foreshadowing the nightgowns worn by the passengers on the Titanic as the iceberg is struck.

The second act covers the time period after the iceberg is hit. While the full scaffolding structure doesn’t submerge, a chandelier and a couple of window washer-like platforms do. With two lifeboats being loaded and rowed off before we see passengers hurling themselves from the scaffolding into the water, the effects are breath-taking. Add in the occasional thunderstorm, and Serenbe’s "Titanic" is truly an immersive experience. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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