BJU will present the South Carolina premiere of the Tony-award winning musical Titanic from March 14 through 16, and those attending will be able to view various artifacts recovered from the Titanic on display in the Rodeheaver Auditorium lobby.
Titanic, which opened on Broadway in 1997, tells the stories of several crew members and passengers, both fictional and real, as they sailed on the doomed ship which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912.
Dr. Darren Lawson, director of the Titanic, saw the original show on Broadway. After introducing musicals to the lineup of Concert, Opera and Drama Series with Little Women in 2016, Lawson decided to produce Titanic at BJU.
While researching for the show, Lawson connected with the owner of the Titanic museum located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, who will attend the opening night performance.
The museum will display several artifacts in the Rodeheaver Auditorium lobby while the show runs, including the leather portfolio of Wallace Henry Hartley, the bandleader featured in the musical.
Lawson said displaying museum items is a first for a Concert, Opera and Drama Series production.
In addition to the physical artifacts, the production will use a recording of the Titanic’s salvaged whistle, both in the show and as a signal for the end of intermission. “It’s pretty spine-tingling to hear this horn and realize that’s the same horn that the people that loaded the ship that day heard,” Lawson said.
Lawson said people who lived in the early 20th century marveled at the Titanic’s technology, touting that even God could not sink the ship. He said it reminded him of today’s technology-obsessed world.
“Do we run the risk of making the same mistakes today that they made 107 years ago?” Lawson asked.
It’s a question that Lawson hopes the audience will contemplate as they view the production. With 65 cast members and 26 orchestra members, the production of Titanic involves many members of the University.
Katie Taylor, senior orchestral instrument performance major and orchestra member, said that while the production takes time, she thinks that it will be a good experience. “I’m excited to have pit experience for a musical at a college production level,” Taylor said.
Jeff Stegall of the theatre faculty designed the set and coordinated the costumes, which are being rented from Los Angeles.
Michael Moore, chair of the Division of Music, will conduct the orchestra.
The production also features six professional guest artists, including Brandon Hendrickson, opera singer and assistant professor of voice at Louisiana State University; Cabiria Jacobsen, a mezzo-soprano returning to the stage after a major surgery in 2018; baritone Timothy McDevitt, a New York district winner of the Metropolitan Opera Competition; New York actress Caitlin Mesiano; Tony Mowatt, an actor and musician who plays guitar and piano; and Patrick Dunn, Phantom understudy for the Phantom of the Opera United States tour.
“[Using guest artists] gives our students an opportunity to sing alongside professionals in the industry and watch their process,” Lawson said.
After a table reading (reading through the script as a cast) in September, the cast practiced the music every Monday evening. At the start of this semester, the cast rehearsed three nights a week.
Peter Stone, writer of 1776, wrote the musical’s book while Maury Yeston, music writer for Nine, wrote the music and lyrics. Both won Tony awards for their efforts.
The musical itself won five Tonys, including best musical.