Polished, professional 'Titanic' shines at Augustana

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Polished, professional 'Titanic' shines at Augustana

Postby Andrew Clarkson » Thu May 04, 2017 5:32 pm

From the first moments of Augustana College's new production of the musical "Titanic," at the Kim and Donna Brunner Theatre Center, I could tell it would be special.

The spare, effective set design by Susan Holgersson features a rust-colored silhouette of the ocean liner as backdrop, a raised deck, white Titanic ring buoys, lit portholes, and at the start, blue lights that somehow create limpid, fluttering waves on the stage floor. That's a mesmerizing scene that briefly returns toward the show close -- a harrowing ending we know all too well.

The 1997 musical — with a gorgeous, impassioned, respectful score by Maury Yeston — gives equal voice to the hopes, dreams and fates of all involved with the April 1912 maiden voyage of RMS Titanic, then the world's largest moving object. Director Erin Platt works wonders with an immensely talented cast of 21 (plus a brief cameo by theater department chair Jeff Coussens), who represent the 2,200 people on board this 11-story floating city.

All but four actors (Mr. Coussens' son Chase, Jacob Kilburg as ship designer Thomas Andrews, Phil Corrado as Capt. E.J. Smith, and Jon Schrader as White Star Line owner J. Bruce Ismay) play multiple roles.

A point of tension leading up to the ship striking the iceberg at the end of Act 1 is Mr. Schrader's persistent hubris as the owner annoys Andrews and Smith by calling for Titanic to go faster — enabling a journey from Southampton to New York in six days. Ismay wanted the ship to be the best and fastest, and to make news, but he ended up making the unforgettable news no one sought (the death of 1,517 as Titanic sank).

The three men's anguish and rationalizing emerge with raw force in Act 2, in "The Blame," which Ms. Platt stages as a raging whirl. In a thoughtful director's note on the unthinkable tragedy, she notes that more than the massive loss of life, the true horror came from realizing so many more could have been saved if Titanic carried more lifeboats. It had just 20 — in order to provide more space for first-class state rooms.

And of total victims, 76 percent of third-class passengers died, compared to 39 percent of first class, she notes. One of the many touching parts of the story is reflected when Jessica Holzknecht as Ida Straus refuses to board a lifeboat without her husband, Isidor (co-owner of Macy's), who stayed behind with many of the men, and played with dignity by Nate Karstens.

Chief among treasures in this "Titanic" (written before the famous, fictionalized James Cameron film) is how Mr. Yeston and book writer Peter Stone put affecting and poignant faces on this monumental catastrophe.

Read more; http://www.qconline.com/life/polished-p ... da14a.html
All the best,
Andrew Clarkson,
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