Wow -- what a show!
Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre's current production of Titanic the Musical has to be one of the most high-reaching and fabulous performances this venerable organization has ever given. And that was just the rehearsal.
The 80 actors and dozens of supporting cast members are drawn from a variety of local performing arts organizations. The teamwork that went into this show is amazing. The acting is terrific. And the soloists, mostly from the ranks of musical director Justin Raffa's Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, have voices that will melt your heart.
Like the ship, this play is ambitious. Unlike the ship, the play is buoyant and vibrant to the very end.
The all-volunteer cast and crew had scarce rehearsal time on the stage and had to dream big to get this $50,000 production afloat.
That's what Titanic the Musical is about - big dreams and big voices.
Some of the Tri-Cities' best and biggest voices are on stage for this show. Standout performances include Titanic's lovestruck stoker played by Sam Purvine and Reginald Unterseher as the serious and thoughtful First Officer Murdoch. Both do justice to their characters.
Raffa is more than up to the challenge of managing a live orchestra and dozens of singers on the stage. Raffa has such a gorgeous voice that it is a shame he doesn't sing in the performance. However, his strong energy and direction are on stage at all times even though the only time the audience knows he's there in the orchestra pit is from the occasional and energetic appearance of a pair of hands floating above the stage.
The choruses are grand, anthemlike. This reviewer doesn't cry easily, but listening to the entire company sing Godspeed Titanic had me whipping out my handkerchief. The song What a Remarkable Age This Is! perfectly captures the reckless spirit of the Titanic and her passengers, even as it hints at their eventual doom.
The set is both solid and ephemeral, like the ship herself. Lighting is beautifully used to cast the ship in many different colors and moods.
The only thing that can be fussed at a little is the costumes. Something a bit more fancy and theatrical would have been a great addition to the play. And the stokers' costumes looked too much like casts-off from a Star Trek episode. One stroke of costuming genius however shone through in the dresses of Alice Beane, a relentless social climber. Her dresses were loudly striped to go with her loud striving for attention. Her appearances, beautifully sung by Erin Patterson, were a pleasure to see and hear.
If you love big-voiced musicals, if you are fascinated with how far the Tri-City arts community has come in its ability to deliver a grand production, and if you enjoy a story about the largeness of dreams and the fate of falling stars, you will love this show.
*Nancy Welliver is a longtime supporter of the arts. She has worked at Hanford as an engineer and is a member of the Camerata Musica organization.