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A CurtainUp Review
The Tony winner did boast a literate, if conventional, book by Peter Stone, but was truly memorable for the strong score by Maury Yeston. The demanding size of the Broadway show, however, seemed to doom productions elsewhere.
Enter Don Stephenson, an actor who was in the original cast. He reasoned that the heart of the story was a personal one, so why not re-conceive the show on a more intimate scale. Working with composer Yeston, Kevin Stites (original musical director of the Broadway show) choreographer Lisa Genaro and musical director Ian Weinberger, Stephenson oversaw the re-scoring of the music for a smaller orchestra and a reduction of the cast from 40 to 20. After tryouts in upstate New York and a well-received production in London, this new, leaner, but engaging musical has opened at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, New York.
The reworking does not diminish the impact of the storyP. rojections imaginatively suggesting the giant ship and the fateful iceberg it encounters.
The score, strongly sung here by a talented ensemble of 20 performers who double and sometime triple the roles they play, carries the day. Perhaps only an opera could rise to the level of this massive tragedy, but Yeston's music and lyrics go a long way in capturing the many personal dramas as well as the sweep and spirit of this nautical adventure.
Strong performances were delivered by Tom Hewitt as Thomas Andrews who designed the ship, Adam Heller as J. Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of the White Star Line, William Parry as Captain Edward J. Smith and Jonathan Brody and Will Boyajian as his deck officers. Xander Chauncey was a knockout as Frederick Barrtett, a stoker dreaming about the future, and David Studwell and Kay Walbye as Isidor Strauss, a leading New York City store owner, and his wife, Ida, evoked pathos as an older couple who choose to die together.
Lisa Genaro's choreography is limited to a few dances — one in the upper class salon and a few jigs down below. But its clear her talent was behind many of the stage pictures.
The actual sinking is registered by the clever use of row after row of photographs of actual victims receding into the distance. The many apt period costumes help establish the era, and Stephenson's direction. Coupled with the sensitive musical leadership of Ian Weinberger this is a most satisfying productions.