FINDLAY - One hundred years ago, April 15, 1912, the ocean liner Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. To commemorate the tragic event, Fort Findlay Playhouse is staging the Broadway musical "Titanic" at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Additional evening performances are at 8 p.m. April 19-21 and 26-28. Two more 5 p.m. matinees are April 22 and 29.
Forty-three cast members, some in multiple roles, take the personas of real people on the tragic voyage. They and additional fictional characters of all ages, social classes and occupations tell their individual stories of hope and courage in the face of disaster.
The audience gets a musical history lesson throughout the show, starting with the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews, performing the opening song. Captain E.J. Smith, the ship's owner, Mr. Ismay, and other officers are introduced. The captain, builder and owner congratulate themselves for their involvement with the maiden voyage of the magnificent vessel. Freight and supplies are loaded for the trip from Southampton to New York City.
The Fort Findlay set includes a gangplank that is lowered for crew, staff and passengers to board, starting with third-class. Three young Irish ladies, all named Kate, are among the first to board. The second-class passengers include Caroline Nevile and Charles Clark, who are eloping to America, and Alice Beane and her husband, Edgar, who owns a hardware store. Alice lingers on the deck to catch a glimpse of the wealthy socialites in first class. Desiring to "rub elbows" with them, she names everyone and recites their accomplishments in "The First Class Roster." The cast performs "There She Is" to describe the grandeur of "The Largest Floating Object" of its time, and sings "Godspeed Titanic" as the ship pulls away to its doom.
Once at sea, Ismay pressures the captain to increase the ship's speed in an effort to "create a legend" and arrive ahead of schedule. To placate Ismay, Smith agrees to switch from 19 knots to 20 knots. The orders are sent down to the boiler room, where Fred Barrett is stoking coal. "Barrett's Song" reveals how the stoker had taken the job to escape work in the coal mines, only to find it was not much different from working in the bowels of the ship.
The action shifts to the first class dining room where musicians are playing and the wait staff is catering to the guests arrayed in the fashions of the day. Ismay is pleased to learn that Smith has chosen the northern route to save time crossing the Atlantic, even though icebergs have been sighted and warnings have been issued.
While the first class travelers are consuming their extravagant dinners on the upper decks, the three Kates in steerage are sharing their hopes for a better life in the United States as a "Lady's Maid," a governess and a seamstress. The men aspire to become millionaires, engineers and businessmen. The third-class passengers take turns singing of their dreams in various languages.
In the ship's telegraph office, Harold Bride is trying to transmit messages from the first-class passengers while marveling at the possibilities of modern communication in "The Night Was Alive." When Barrett stops in to request a telegram be sent to his girl back home, Bride agrees to give him "a professional discount." Barrett sings "The Proposal" and prays for a safe return to his beloved.
Of course, the Titanic's tragic story is well known. The ocean liner and more than 1,500 people aboard found their final resting place at the bottom of the sea. The focus of Act Two is the evacuation of the "unsinkable" ship and the clash of egos who first denied the vessel was foundering and then blamed the disaster on conditions and people other than themselves. For all its engineering and amenities, the ship was lacking in lifeboats, and its design was flawed enough to permit ruin.
Bright relentlessly sends out distress signals and Andrews is depicted frantically re-designing the ship up until its final demise. The story is resolved as the survivors relate their experiences, discuss what might have been done to save the Titanic, and mourn their losses even as they express hope to be reunited with loved ones and to mend their broken dreams.
Martin Williams, a Ritz Player, Bettsville teacher and former Tiffin resident, is directing "Titanic," with his wife Cathy as producer. Aeryn Williams is music director and choreographer Julie Lane also portrays a second-class passenger.
Tickets are $15. They are available in advance from the Arts Partnership at (419) 422-4624. Remaining seats for each performance are to be sold at the door, but seating is limited. The theater is located at 300 W. Sandusky St., Findlay.