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Theatre / Titanic

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The Musical of the RMS Titanic's launching and eventual tragic sinking.

Yes, you read that right.

Titanic: The Musical, (or officially just Titanic) was a Broadway musical that opened in 1997 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on the 23rd of April, starring John Cunningham as Captain E. J. Smith, Michael Cerveris as Thomas Andrews, and David Garrison as J. Bruce Ismay. The musical ended won 5 Tonys including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, and ran for two years. A UK production opened in 2018.

The plot of the musical follows the crew and passengers of the RMS Titanic as it makes its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in April 1912. It focus on no-one in particular, instead choosing to give almost every class of person on the ship a song and or a moment and therefore has no one single protagonist. (Other than the Titanic herself, if you will)


The musical is also unique in that the Broadway stage could tilt to simulate the sinking of the ship, and that most of the characters are actually people who were on the Titanic with only a few names changed here and there and a few people who died lived and vice versa.

The relation to James Cameron's Titanic in the same year is probably just coincidental.

Titanic provides examples of:

  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: A real life example.
  • Artistic Licence – History:
    • For being a show that got most things right about the Titanic, it does get a few things wrong: One of the lyrics in "Mr Andrews’ Vision" says "the water poured in a 300 foot gash". It didn't, it poured in a number of holes along a 300 foot length and this was 1997, they knew by then. It probably just rhymed better.
    • Both Edgar Beane and Stoker Frederick Barrett die in the musical, but in real life, they lived, despite both being part of groups (Second-Class men and Engineering Crew respectively) that took among the highest casualty rates.
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    • Henry Etches is portrayed as the Chief Steward and Andrew Latimer as his subordinate. In real life it was the other way around.
  • Composite Character: The real Kate McGowan was a middle-aged spinster who died in the sinking, unlike the younger Kate in the show. She appears to have been conflated, whether intentionally or accidentally, with Kate Gilnagh, who was the right age, was really friends with the people the fictional McGowan associates with, and survived the sinking.
    • Jim Farrell boards a lifeboat by claiming to be a seaman. This is how First Class passenger Arthur Peuchen managed to get into Lifeboat 6, Jim Farrell died during the disaster.
  • Cool Boat: Takes place on one. It was the largest and most luxurious ship ever made at that time after all.
  • Dark Reprise: Plenty, after the iceberg is struck and things go rapidly downhill.
    • "To Be A Captain" is a short song sung in the first act by First Officer Murdoch about the importance of the position of Captain and how he feels he isn't qualified to take it. At the end, the same song is reprised by Chief Steward Etches as a eulogy for Captain Smith.
    • "Lady's Maid" is sung by Kate McGowan and the rest of the third-class passengers while dreaming of the bright future awaiting them in America. The reprise is sung to Kate by her new fiancé Jim as he tries to convince her to get into the lifeboat and leave him behind with most of the other third-class passengers as the ship sinks.
    • "Autumn" is a sweeping melody about being content with one's life as one grows older. Andrews desperately sings a few lines from the song as water floods the doomed ship, his life's work failing before his eyes.
    • "Godspeed, Titanic" concludes the opening number of the show as the entire cast bids the Titanic a safe journey across the ocean, and also concludes the show itself as the survivors of the disaster watch the ruined ship sink beneath the waves.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Musical! Act 1 of the show largely depicts the hopes and dreams of the passengers and crew as they sail aboard the majestic ship, all the while the audience is well aware of the fate that awaits them all.
  • Epic Rocking: If "In Every Age" and "The Launching", which is made up of roughly five or six songs, are both considered one continuous musical number, then the opening number of the show lasts for about sixteen minutes.
  • Ensemble Cast: Rather than focus on one particular member on the Ship; the Show is focus on multiple members of the Crew and Passengers. Practically, every one has, at least, one solo during the Show?
  • Final Love Duet: "Still", a duet between Isidor and Ida Straus. More final than most because they die not soon after.
  • Foregone Conclusion: It's a musical about the Titanic, one of the most famous ship wrecks ever.
  • Henpecked Husband: Edgar Beane is the long-suffering spouse of Alice Beane, who'd rather spend her time associating with the rich and famous than spend time with her husband on a leisure trip overseas.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: As is typical for many adaptations of the incident, Bruce Ismay is depicted in a very critical light. He spends most of the first act constantly urging the captain to increase the ship's speed (despite objections from the crew), in order to generate good press for the Titanic's maiden voyage and to please the wealthy first-class passengers - directly leading to the ship's fatal impact with the iceberg due to being unable to turn in time to avoid it. In reality, there is no evidence that Ismay ever did such a thing, and indeed as the head of White Star Line (whose ships were famed for prioritising luxury and comfort over speed), he would be the least likely person to insist on hastening the voyage.note 
  • "I Want" Song:
    • "Lady's Maid", a song about what the 3rd class passengers want to do when they get to America.
    • "I Must Get on That Ship", a song about, well, wanting to get on that ship.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "The Launching: I Must Get On That Ship", where the 3rd and 2nd class passengers sing about why they are, well... getting on that ship.
  • Mistaken for Servant: When Captain Smith tries to address Harold Bride, the telegraph operator, while the latter is busy sending out the distress signal to alert other ships that the Titanic is sinking.
    Smith: Radio man, have you managed to reach any ships?
    Bride: (snapping) Can't you see I'm busy?! Go bother the captain!
    Smith: This is the captain!
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Fleet, one of the ship's lookouts (at the time of hitting the iceberg) gets "No Moon".
  • Motor Mouth: Alice Beane has a Patter Song as she excitedly raves to her Henpecked Husband about each of the First-Class Passengers, doubling as exposition to modern-day audience members who may not necessarily know who each of the then-famous passengers were.
  • The Musical: Of one of the most famous maritime disasters of all time.
  • One Steve Limit: Very much averted, as almost every character in the show is named after a real-life crew member or passenger on the ship.
    • The most notable example are the three Kates - Kate Mc Gowan, Kate Mullins, and Kate Murphy - who all meet before boarding the ship and even bond over the fact that they share the same name.
    • Captain Edward "E.J." Smith shares a small scene with one of the ship's bellboys and asks him for his name, only to discover that he is also named Edward.
    • Furthermore, we have John Jacob Astor and John Thayer among the first-class passengers, as well as Frederick Fleet and Frederick Barret among the crew.
  • Patter Song: "Mrs. Beane (The First-Class Roster)"
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Mr Andrews' Vision", where Thomas Andrews suffers a nervous breakdown over the design flaw that caused the sinking of the ship, redesigning the blueprints until he breaks off, imagining the fate of those left on the ship until he eventually dies.
  • "Setting Off" Song: The Launching, a name for a collection of 6 songs about the launching of the Titanic that are in order: "How Did They Build Titanic?", "There She Is", "Loading Inventory", "I Must Get On That Ship", "The 1st Class Roster" and finally "Godspeed Titanic"
  • The Song Before the Storm: "Autumn/Finale" - Autumn is a slow, oldtimey song that eventually gets mixed with bits of the previous song "No Moon" about how dark the night is and the fact that you cannot see anything but stars... then the iceberg hits.
  • Quarreling Song: "The Blame" Where the Captain (E.J.Smith), one of the designers (Thomas Andrews) and the owner (J. Bruce Ismay) of the Titanic argue about who was to blame for the sinking of the ship.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The young Madeleine Astor is the "Airhead Heiress" version of this trope, and almost runs back away from the lifeboats while the ship is sinking because she accidentally left her precious diamonds behind.
    Marion: And how did you find Paris, Mrs. Astor?
    Madeleine: Luckily, I didn't have to. Jake knew right where it was!


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