In the Moment: Signature Theatre’s Epic ‘Titanic’ and its Backstage Unsung Heroes

Print Friendly

Epic refined splendor comes to mind after seeing and hearing Signature Theatre’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical Titanic. Director Eric Schaeffer’s vision and implement of such a staggering musical theater production deserves each and every loving, well-earned accolades, including from my DCMTA colleague John Harding.

So what more is there to say with my Titanic column. Let me put together a “listicle” of some Titanic notes aimed at the many unseen folk who make Titanic an awesome production.

The cast of ‘Titanic.’ Photo by Colin Hovde, C. Stanley Photography.

  • Beyond acclaim to Scenic Designer Paul Tatge dePoo III for the magnificent wonder of the RMS Titanic, my sincere standing ovation to all the unseen builders, carpenters, painters, electricians, and riggers. Let’s call them the RMS Titanic below-deck stokers and shipmates who constructed the look of the production that is not only theatrically breathtaking, but has been made it safe. When you see the production with its 5 long gangplanks, titled to a high degree reaching up to the heavens and then so many moving parts lifted and dropped you will completely understand this comment about safe.
  • Beyond kudos to costume designer Frank Labovitz and the spiffy 1912 period costumes for so many different characters of such different stations in life, loud applause to the crew of stitchers and dressers. When you see the show you will come away impressed with the unbelievably fast and smooth costume changes in which double, and triple cast characters so quickly change garb to become someone else because of the behind the scenes dressers and stitchers.
  • Production Stage Manager Kerry Epstein with her assistants and the run crew (let’s call them the ship’s crew who run things when the Captain has earned a night’s rest) deserve an ovation for each safe, smooth cruise of the RMS Titanic.
  • To the Light Board Operator and Followspot ops I give high praise. Light cues and marks were hit right on the nose; the actors shined when they were supposed to and became invisible as they were supposed to.

And,

  • To the actors who I shall praise them as well-trained athletes given not only the choreography but the major stamina needed to move about the set and up and down and around. They are in some shape so that even with microphones, I heard not an out-of-breath whimper. Then again there was even a medical team listed in the program.

I could go on with this “listicle.” But you get the point. Having worked in my own share of theater productions, this majestic production of Titanic is so successful only with the many unseen folk that make it happen.

Some personal notes, however. I read and re-read composer Maury Yeston’s program notes. I spent a night and pondered my reactions to his words. Perhaps they were written before the recent election results or other recent happenings in America. I wish I could agree that when the RMS Titanic went down so did the Age of Privilege. Sadly, my own progressive values can’t agree. Back then it was Millionaires (by now would be Billionaires) who saved themselves or were saved under the rules of those day. The crew and the lower classes went down with the ship. Perhaps just a very strong quibble on my part.

Finally what lyrics for today’s progressive America from Maury Yeston (music and lyrics) which is in the midst of its own “remarkable time.” Such aspirational lyrics for those not already rich and famous; the builders then, the Silocon Valley folk now. I wonder how many immigrant “Kates” in America now feel in these current days it is possible to “rise above your class” or perhaps set your own course. Just wondering out loud.

So, know that under Eric Schaeffer, Signature’s Titanic production is simply epic. It is great entertainment. As I sat in my seat, I certainly became immersed into a grand block-buster. It was ambitious and larger-than-life. It was heroic in its own way.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

Titanic plays through January 29, 2017 at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 820-9771, or purchase them online.

Note: As many know there is a Titanic memorial in DC.

Note: The inscription on the memorial is here. Read the back words carefully. Some left me with a shudder of disbelief.

TO THE BRAVE MEN
WHO PERISHED
IN THE WRECK
OF THE TITANIC
APRIL 15 1912
THEY GAVE THEIR
LIVES THAT WOMEN
AND CHILDREN
MIGHT BE SAVED

ERECTED BY THE
WOMEN OF AMERICA

ON THE BACK:

TO THE YOUNG AND THE OLD
THE RICH AND THE POOR
THE IGNORANT AND THE LEARNED
ALL
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES NOBLY
TO SAVE WOMEN AND CHILDREN

https://youtu.be/0FiEBIdkA5M

https://youtu.be/6U7uFjjiOrk

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to In the Moment: Signature Theatre’s Epic ‘Titanic’ and its Backstage Unsung Heroes

  1. Susan Robinson December 23, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    Hi David–As an area classical musician, with several friends performing on this show, I feel there is an important omission in your list–the orchestra! Kudos to Signature for not only using live music, but for actually not just using the bare minimum they can get away with. For instance, there is an ACTUAL HARP in the pit–not an electronic one, and believe me, real harps in Broadway shows around here are vanishingly rare. Don’t forget the hard work of these musicians who provide a vital element of the show, but too often go unmentioned.