Stories & Cast Interviews

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

ABOUT TITANIC

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The musical has a Tony-winning score by Maury Yeston (Phantom,Grand Hotel, Nine) and a Tony-winning book by the late Peter Stone (The Will Rogers Follies, 1776). Titanic won a total of five 1997 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Orchestrations, and Best Scenic Design.

As the original ad campaign for Titanic mused, the ship of dreams set sail from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, and in the spring of 1997, she finally arrived in New York.  The massive $10 million production, at that time, was one of the most expensive in Broadway history. The musical opened to strong critical notices at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

Don Stephenson, Director of our production here at WBT, played Charles Clark in the original production.  After the Broadway run, He felt “What a shame that Titanic can’t be done more often.” The large number of actors needed, the massive sets and the expense involved rendered it prohibitive for most regional theatres. Don Stephenson had this idea: “Why not bring those stories and that glorious score to more people, up close and personal?” 

He got together with Mr. Yeston, Kevin Stites (musical director of the original Broadway production), Liza Gennaro (choreographer), and musical director Ian Weinberger who arranged a beautiful reduction of the complete score to be played by six dynamic musicians, as opposed to the 30-plus who played the Broadway show.
There would be no tilting stage or tri-level set, instead, lighting, scrims, projections, spatial use of the theatre and other effects would sweep the audience up in the story.  A cast of 20 replaced the original 40. "In this production everybody sings everything," Don said. The cast doubles and triples up on the roles, and the audience is just a few feet away as they sing some of  Yeston’s gorgeous choral numbers; “There She Is,” “Godspeed, Titanic,” “We’ll Meet Tomorrow.”

In directing this piece, he felt that with the background of “an  abstract, stark, minimalist set, the acting should be white, hot and emotionally messy”  "I keep coming back to what would I do if I were there?  How would I react in those moments? We all wonder-- and we can't really be sure. The numbers distract us from the fact that these were individuals,” he said. “They were on an intoxicating adventure. It was, until it wasn’t, The Best Day Of Their Lives."    

In July of 2011, The Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY, presented this new version directed by Don Stephenson, to critical acclaim. In August of 2013, The European premiere of the brilliantly scaled down chamber version, Directed by Thom Southerland, opened at London’s 240 seat Southwark Playhouse, to rave reviews.

WBT is proud to be presenting Titanic. Because of the intimacy our space, it’s easier to relate to the personal experiences of the passengers and crew. The bigger issues that have always been part of the interesting back story (upperclass hubris, working class dreams, bravery, selflessness, love and cowardice) are presented at hand, rather than at arms length in service to the spectacle.  The new orchestrations sound amazing. The story is fresh, lively, deep and stirring. There's life in the “old girl” yet. Sail on!

* Included are some excerpts from Philip Hoffman’s Titanic blog. Learn more at: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/168357-PHOTO-EXCLUSIVE-Philip-Hoffmans-Hangar-Theatre-Titanic-Journal

Meet Philip Hoffman

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)
Philip Hoffman plays Edgar Beane, a second class passenger on the Titanic (here with Donna English as Alice Beane).
I grew up in Chicago. Great theaters there. I came to NYC on 1981, was shortly cast in a Broadway show, so I moved here. Unfortunately the show closed right after opening night. (And then they tore down the theatre!) But I stayed.
 
I started in community theatre at my mom's suggestion, and loved it. We had a few Broadway cast albums at home, my parents listened to a lot of classical music, and my mom sang professionally for many years. I majored in acting at University of Illinois. I've been inspired (and intimidated) by so much great work, great people.
 
I saw TITANIC early in the Broadway run. Then back in late 1999 I spent a few months playing Ismay in the National Tour. I replaced my friend Adam Heller, who had left the tour for another job. The Captain was played by William Parry. Then I did this intimate version at The Hangar Theatre, with Don Stephenson , Liza Genaro, and Ian Weinberger, and a terrific cast, most of whom were able to come back for this production. So this is both an artistic pleasure and a great reunion for me.