Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Directed by Jay Lewis
Music Director – B. Weslee Vance
Choreography – Kelli Price
Set Design – Jay Lewis, Hillard Cochran
Costume Design – Auston McIntosh
Lighting Design – Cameron Barrus
Properties – Mindy Wilborn
Sound Design – Devin Moralez
CAST (from reviewed performance)
Jared Ball – Barrett, Guggenheim
Robert Drapiza – Lightoller
Chance Eubanks – Astor
Andrew Guzman – Andrews
Jason Reed – Bride
Nicholas Hancock – Bellboy
Iain Nix – Carlson/Feet
Meagan Sellers – Kate Murphy
Rachel Daniels – Kate McGowen
Bryanna Levac – Kate Mullins
Christine Atwell – Alice Beane
Hillard Cochran – Ismay
Jay Lewis – Edgar Beane / Boxhall
Jason Cole – Pitman / Etches
Marcie Allison – Caroline Neville / Mme. Aubert
Juan Crespo – Charles Clarke
Jay Cornils – Captain Smith
Rick Briscoe – Isidor Straus
Sandra Arnold – Ida Straus
Becky Esch – Marion Thayer
Debra Nix – Madame Cardoza
Kennedy Styron – Madelaine Astor
Austin McIntosh – Farrell / Major
Ship Crew – Elizabeth Nix, Mallory Sellers, Nolan Moralez Priscilla Rosendo, and Victoria Smith
Children – Keona Howard, Morgan Atwell, Ariel Hancock, and Sam Schoen
Reviewed Performance 7/5/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The first time I ever heard about the Titanic was when I was in kindergarten. We had a neighbor boy, Brett, who lived down the street and was obsessed with the Titanic. His room was filled with model ships, books, posters, and even a stuffed ship. From there, my knowledge of the Titanic grew slightly from the mentions in history class, but really took hold once James Cameron brought the luxury ship to the big screen in 1997. Since then, I have visited a few Titanic museums, watched a documentary or two, and learned how our world was changed by the sinking of one ship.
Now, Titanic –The Musical is nothing like the movie, as the Carnegie Players website will decidely tell you. Instead, it is based on actual passengers’ accounts, mainly around the idea of social class and how the Titanic was set up. There were three groups of passengers: 1st (upper class), 2nd (middle class) and 3rd (lower class), and their treatment and accommodation were based upon what level they were on.
Titanic –The Musical opened on Broadway in 1997 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Titanic is set on the ocean liner RMS Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. Join The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players as they bring this tragedy to the stage.
I was unsure if GCCP would be able to do justice to the musical, and I was greatly surprised to see it so well done. It is moving, touching, and unnerving. Director Jay Lewis brings together a cast that works seamlessly together and takes the audience on a journey through the crew and passengers to see the human heart of the Titanic.
The stage is set with the ship seen from a cross view, straight onto the deck of the Titanic with the bridge above it. Off to the right is the crow’s nest, while a secondary deck is to the left. The set is missing the grandeur of what one thinks of as the Titanic, but does have all the required ship areas. The rest of the set is brought to life with the use of a projector screen that switches between live action and actual pictures of the Titanic. While this does lead to multiple areas, it still is missing the luxury of actually being on stage. Set Designers Jay Lewis and Hillard Cochran create a realistic view of a 1914 ship, just not the Titanic. For me, the fatal flaw is once the Titanic has sunk, the life rings still say Titanic even though they are now aboard the Carpathia. While the set is lackluster at best, it is clearly not the star of the show, the cast is.
Lighting by Cameron Barrus melds so harmoniously with the rest of the musical, it is easy to forget to reflect on it. Spotlights and backlighting are used to enhance the vocals of the cast, and as the set extends past the stage, using the sides of the auditorium as the gang planks and the life boats, the use of spotlights also draws the audience to those locations then become dark to highlight the action onstage. Barrus is a true master at work behind this design that flows within the musical itself.
Auston McIntosh, Costume Designer, must have worked long hours to come up with with the clothing for Titanic. Each of the classes is carefully designed to show the wealth, or lack thereof, the passengers had. First class male passengers wear three-piece suits, top hats, with women in formal gowns, furs, pearls, and feathered hats. Second class is decked in more business-casual clothing. The men have sport coats while the ladies are more subdued in suits and sensible shoes. Third class, though, is where McIntosh shines. This is the lowest class of passengers and they are dressed in peasant clothing in fabrics of plaids and muted colors of brown and green. The men still have vest and ties, but are missing coats. The crew is dressed in uniforms befitting their rank. McIntosh does an amazing job bringing the audience to the early 1900’s through the costumes.
Music Director B. Weslee Vance commands the music of the musical. The first act is dominated with song upon song that are intertwined and overlapped, but the audience is aware at all times where they are and what is happening within the musical. Vance highlights the talent of the cast and uses them in ways that has the audience on the edge of their seats awaiting the next score.
Choreographer Kellie Price had the task of fitting all the twenty plus cast on the stage for the ensemble numbers. Each and every song is perfectly matched with the dance steps. Price is also aware of the story’s class structure and her choreography is matched accordingly. First class passengers’ dances are formal while the third class is rowdy and full of life. In “Ladies Maid”, the choreography is upbeat and lively to match the allure that America will bring to those wanting to start a new life. On the other hand, “Doing the Latest Rag” is full of precise ballroom dancing to reflect their “proper” way of life.
Titanic leads off with the ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews, played by Andrew Guzman, singing “In Every Age.” This ballad is moving and touching as the visuals move through the building of the Titanic. Guzman has amazing enunciation that denotes the attention to detail the Titanic was known for. While Guzman sings exceptionally well, his face is emotionless and misses the beat of the joy Thomas Andrews had as the Titanic began her maiden voyage. Guzman, though, completely makes up for this in “The Blame”, where emotion runs through him with clenched fist and a red face as he takes blame and also blames others for the sinking of the ship. Through each of his numbers Guzman is on point and clearly not holding back on the power of his vocals.
Barrett, a lowly stoker played by Jared Ball, has many numbers within the musical. After the medley of opening numbers consisting of “How Did They Build” “Fare-thee-well” and “There She Is”, Ball shows off his use of range and goes smoothly between lead and ensemble. He harmonizes well with Jason Reed and Iain Nix within the songs. Ball shines in “Barrett’s Song” as the audience rides the journey of a stoker that knows the ship is being pushed too hard. His rich voice is laden with hurt and undertones of frustration as he is forced to do his job. Ball then becomes alive when he is joined by Jason Reed in “The Proposal” and “The Night Was Alive.” In “The Proposal”, Ball changes his vocalization to carefree and loving as his character sends a note back home to his love via Bride, the radio operator. Ball’s range is spectacular and changes to fit each and every song as needed. Yet, it is Ball’s ability to transform into his roles that makes him outstanding as he splits his time on stage between Barrett and first class passenger Benjamin Guggenheim.
Bride, played by Jason Reed, is so full of energy it caused a few missed and untimed lines. Reed has the vocals in “The Night Was Alive” as he sings passionately about Bride’s job as a radio operator. Reed excels in tone, his sobering vocals exactly what are needed to remind the audience this is not a happy ending musical. His range is excellent, and while he shines in his leads, it is when Reed harmonizes with others that his full power is seen.
Jay Cornils portrays Captain Smith, the distinguished guardian of the Titanic. Cornils is sobering in his look through pursed lips and formal stance. His no-nonsense behavior is completely changed, though, in “The Blame” where his vocals are tested to the limit as the anger that Smith feels is on full display with Cornils’ red face and in-your- face stance. Cornils’ vocal range is wide, and his volume levels reflect Smith’s change as he places blame and takes blame, his demeanor also changing to a humbling stature of defeat. Cornils somber tone at the end of Act Two shows the defeat that Captain Smith was noted as having as the ship sank.
J. Bruce Ismay, played by Hillard Cochran, is the pushy managing director of the White Star Line of steamships. Cochran nailed the haughty air of Ismay through his arrogant tone and judgmental facial expressions, especially to the Captain when he did not follow his thought process on proceeding faster. In “The Largest Moving Object”, Cochran sings with joy and elation to see the Titanic prepare for her maiden voyage, yet this is a complete 180 degree turn from “The Blame.” Cochran has a soulful and powerful baritone voice that booms from the stage, his facial expressions only highlighting his voice. Cochran becomes Ismay and there is no denying that this villain is perfectly cast.
The bridge crew is rounded out with William Murdoch, portrayed by Chance Eubanks, and Charles Lightoller, portrayed by Robert Drapiza. In “Cap Lights”, these two blend well with Cornils to show the solemn job a captain has in managing a ship. While each of their voices is distinct, they blend and sound as one.
Eubanks is the perfect Murdoch. Murdoch is not confident in his role at 1st Officer and is unsure if he every wants the responsibility of having his own ship. In “To Be a Captain”, Eubanks’ baritone voice rings from the stage to reflect the weight of the job of a captain. Eubanks’ solemn eyes resonate with the lyrics. This is only heightened by his range and volume to bring out the heart of the song. Most impressive, though, is his English accent which doesn’t falter once between his lines or his singing, yet changes appropriately as his role does.
Robert Drapiza plays both Lightoller and Wallace Hartley, the orchestra leader. In “Autumn”, Hartley is singing to the 1st class passengers as the crew braces for impact. Drapiza is a perfect contrast to the rushed and hurried bridge crew, and is a solid, entertaining performer that is the epitome of the lounge show. His tenor voice has an amazing range and Drapiza even changes his voice to play the two different characters.
Frederick Fleet, the lookout played by Iain Nix, is at the heart of the tragedy of the Titanic. Nix’s shrill voice accomplishes what nothing else will when the iceberg is spotted, a sense of fear. Nix has an amazingly controlled voice that is breathtaking. Singing “No Moon #1”, his low volume tone helps portray Fleet’s important job watching the waters for trouble. Yet in “No Moon #2” Nix shines as his belting voice epitomes the terror of knowing he was too late.
Henry Etches, played by Jason Phillip Cole, is the 1st class steward who wants to make everything perfect for his passengers. “What a Remarkable Age This Is” highlights Cole’s pointed enunciation and the prim and proper attitude of Etches. Cole blends well with the company as the musical number orchestrates the bright future the passengers have as they head to America. Cole’s volume and range are amazing and fit well with the music.
The Strauses are the one couple that is not split when getting into the life boats. Ida Straus, played by Sandra Arnold, chooses to not leave her husband Isidor Straus, played by Rick Briscoe. In “Still”, Arnold and Briscoe sing a beautiful duet that highlights the love between the elderly couple. While the song is not a major part of the musical, the actors’ poignant glances and tender gestures makes them come alive.
Alice Beane, the busybody 2nd class passenger played by Christine Atwell, is the comedic relief to the musical. In “The First-Class Roster”, Atwell’s high energy and shrill voice fully portrays the star-struck passenger that she Alice is. With furtive glances and quick-paced vocals, her energy builds along with the audience. “I have Danced” has Atwell positively glowing as Alice recounts her 1st class passenger adventure. Atwell’s characterization goes beyond vocals and to her facial expression, in particular her eyes. She is having fun on stage and it shows through her amazing performance which only enhances her soprano voice and vocal range.
The musical is rounded out by the members of the third class. While the three Kates, Rachel Daniels, Meagan Sellers and Bryanna LeVac, are so different in “Lady’s Maid”, it is Daniels that shines above the rest. Daniels’ voice is confident and strong, while Sellers’ is unsure and soft, and LeVac’s singing is over-performed. This is a song that is fast-paced and a whirlwind of action, but Sellers and LeVac get lost in the shuffle and Daniels stands out with her beautiful soprano voice.
Rachel Daniels as Kate McGowen and Auston McIntosh as Jim Farrell play 3rd class, Irish passengers and portray the love story of an unwed mother and a new friend. These two are matched perfectly not only in vocals but in character. I forgot that they weren’t really in love or building a courtship. In “Staircase”, Daniels and Farrell both show off their harmony and amazing vocals. As their characters work through the maze of getting to a boat, their voices pick up the pace and lead to the rush to safety.
I do want to note that the men in this cast are fantastic in their double roles. While Eubanks, Drapiza, Nix, Ball, McIntosh and Reed play a mix of crew and passengers, there is never a mistake as to which they are. Through careful choreography and blocking they move seamlessly between each of their characters, which sometimes is less than minutes apart.
The ensemble is filled with talented singers that transition well between the upbeat first act and the tragic second. They harmonize well and blend perfectly so that none rises inappropriately above the crowd. It is in “Godspeed Titanic” that the company prepares the audience for the amazing journey they are about to take and again in “Finale: Godspeed Titanic”, they bring the audience full circle, reminding that no matter which class one belonged to they were all in it together.
Titanic –The Musical takes the audience on a journey with the passengers of the ship and how their lives would forever be changed. Out of the 2,228 souls aboard the ship, only 711 survived the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic. Among the 1,517 men women and children who died, all three passenger groups were united. The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players blew me away with their talent and devotion of getting this musical right. They have brought to life the stories of not only the survivors, but also those lost at sea of one of the most tragic shipwrecks of our time. Make the time to go and see this performance and you won’t be disappointed.
TITANC – THE MUSICAL
Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Cleburne Conference Center Theater
1501 W. Henderson Street
Cleburne, TX 76033
Performances run through July 13th.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm.
General Admission tickets are $13.00 and $9.00 for seniors and students.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.carnegieplayers.org or call their box office at 817-645-9255.