Arts groups come together for 'Titanic'

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerNovember 2, 2012 

Titanic the Musical doesn't feature the famous characters Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt from the movie version.

Instead, this stage show is a more factual interpretation, giving the audience a better sense of the relationships between the Titanic's actual crew, officers and passengers who sailed on the doomed voyage in 1912.

The Mid-Columbia Music Theatre, formerly Richland Light Opera, will present the historic production Nov. 8-11 in the auditorium at Richland High School.

What makes this production unique is that all the major arts organizations in the Tri-Cities are lending their expertise to the show.

The Mid-Columbia Symphony provides the orchestra. Mid-Columbia Ballet artistic director Debra Rogo handles the choreography. Mid-Columbia Mastersingers leader Justin Raffa is the musical director for the show, and his singers portray chorus members, as well as play key roles.

Tri-City theater veteran Jo Brodzinski is directing. She said the ship's story will be told through its passengers and the events that lead up to hitting the iceberg, which is different from the fictional love story in the blockbuster movie.

"This story is not the movie. It's told through some of the real people who were on that ship -- the owner, the builder and the captain -- along with three workers and many passengers," Brodzinski said. "It tells what happened on the ship and why. Each cast member has done research on their character and who they are supposed to be."

She also said Titanic the Musical is the most elaborate and expensive show the theater has ever done in its 64-year history.

"The overall cost for this show is $50,000," she said. "Our normal cost range is $30,000."

There are 250 costumes and 80 cast members in the show, and the set design includes lifeboats, special lighting and 25 extras taking care of hair and makeup. The production also features special effects that include a scene of the ship sinking.

Hanford High drama director Matt Leggett spends more time behind the curtain teaching his award-winning students the art of theater. But the music and the storyline of Titanic brought him back into the limelight.

"I try to get on stage every three years or so, and I am particularly impressed by the singing in this show," he said.

Leggett plays second-class passenger Edgar Bean, whose wife Alice, played by Erin Patterson, is a social climber.

"She wants to mingle with the millionaires and is not content with her station in life. This, of course, frustrates her husband who is a practical man in the hardware business," he said. "Both characters provide much-needed moments of levity in the show. Their relationship goes through an arc that is touching and satisfying. There are a lot of great voices in this show."

Ted Miller portrays the Titanic's captain with Eric Eberle, Bryan Foley, Eric Whittaker, Scott Miller, Sam Purvine, Scott Rodgers, Mark Barton, Dustin White and Paul Davis as the ship's top officers.

Reginald Unterseher, a distinguished Tri-City composer, will play the role of Titanic's 1st officer William Murdoch.

"Titanic is a terrific musical, entertaining and thought provoking," Unterseher said. "An important underlying theme is the relationship between people and technology, something particularly appropriate for the Tri-Cities with our place in the history of technology.

"It's a big show, and the collaboration between the people in the Tri-Cities performing arts groups is always a plus."

Geoff Elliott and Molly Holleran play similar characters to James Cameron's movie characters Jack and Rose. Elliott originally signed on to help with set design for the production but decided to tackle a role in the show as well -- that of real life third-class passenger Jim Farrell. Farrell catches the eye of second-class passenger Kate McGowan, played by Holleran, and the two end up together as the ship sinks.

"In real life, Jim came from an Irish farming family," Elliott said. "He also had a job as a milk truck driver before deciding at the last minute to head off to America to join his brother. He is credited with intimidating the Titanic crew, who had barricaded the third class passengers below decks, into letting the third class women go up to the life boats, thus saving their lives. There's a memorial to him in his hometown."

Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-10 with a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 11. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for students and are available at http://rloc.tix.com. The Nov. 8 performance costs $5 for all students.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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