'Unsinkable Molly Brown' opens March 15

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerMarch 8, 2013 

Margaret "Molly" Brown was an extraordinary woman who championed women's rights at the turn of the last century.

Her humanitarian efforts are also legendary. She was a first-class passenger on the Titanic when the ship sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean.

As the story goes, Brown is credited with intimidating the crew in her lifeboat to return to the sunken ship to check for survivors, much to their protestations.

She earned the nickname "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" after surviving the catastrophe.

A 1960 Broadway musical, called The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was picked up by Hollywood in 1964 and produced a movie, by the same name, based on Brown's rags to riches life, which starred Debbie Reynolds as the saucy and colorful Molly Brown.

The Mid-Columbia Musical Theater will present the award-winning show opening March 15 in the auditorium at Richland High School.

"Molly Brown is the perfect complement to our very successful fall production (Titanic the Musical)," said Mary Lou Gnoza, the show's drama director. "It's also one of the best-loved Broadway shows. It's a mostly sweet love story and a comedy based on her life."

Tri-City actors Katrina Carlson and Sam Purvine play the lead characters Molly and her husband Johnny. Other key roles are Mark Barton as the monsignor, Jill Madison as Princess DeLong and Chuck Wojnowski as Prince DeLong. Music director is Karl Hedlund, with John Tuttle and Marlie Buriak sharing choreography duties, and Troy McNabb and Eric Richman as technical directors.

"We have a delightful talented Katrina Carlson playing Molly, and she has songs that go at warp speed," Gnoza said. "Very loud and brassy and yet she sings love songs with Johnny that melt your heart."

Molly Brown grew up poor and determined to marry a wealthy man until Johnny Brown (whom she calls JJ) came into her life. She fell for him hook, line and sinker and gave up her pursuit of a charmed life for love. Johnny, however, soon made his fortune and the two tried to blend into Denver's high society world.

But Molly was snubbed by that city's society matrons because she was outspoken and swore like a longshoreman. So, she and her husband headed for Europe and were welcomed by royalty, and Molly and JJ brought them back to Denver to introduce them to the snobby elite. The Browns present a society ball for the introductions, but it soon turns into a brawl and is reported in the newspaper the following day on the sports page instead of the society page.

"This show has been intense because of the short rehearsal time and being absolutely dependent on the high school auditorium rental schedule," Gnoza said.

That schedule also made it difficult for the musical theater group to find two weekends in a row to present The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which opens March 15 and continues March 16, 22-23. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 24. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for senior citizens and $10 for students. Student tickets are $5 for the March 15 performance. Tickets are available at www.midcolumbiamusicaltheatre.org or at the Tri-City Academy of Ballet, 21 Aaron Drive, Richland.

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

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