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WSU’s ‘Titanic’ expands on Broadway version

The unsinkable marvel of the dawning 20th Century, the Titanic, met its match, an iceberg in the cold Northern Atlantic in April 1912. As it plunged into the icy waters, with three quarters of its passengers still aboard, a great myth was born.
The discovery of the Titanic’s remains sparked renewed interest. Unfortunately, Hollywood got first dibs. The film, a near-fatal overdose of special effects, featured a love story, or rather a triangle, among persons of little appeal. The filmmakers missed a glowing jewel, revealing the humanity of the tale. They substituted an ugly and fake jewel which got its due – a watery grave.

The Broadway show is much better. There are over 2200 stars, the doomed persons on the doomed ship. I have had an opportunity to see the show several times, as guest of a cast member in New York and on tour here in Dayton.
Stuart McDowell used his special gifts to expand on the Broadway version by some subtle and some broad changes. His directorial skills, using the palate of the extraordinary talents of the WSU students, took the play into a higher plane.
By well applied theater magic every single actor, each character, connected directly to the audience.

Main characters and the most minor roles were invested with a dignity and a purpose. They spoke and sang their messages – we are doomed but, thanks to you, we are not forgotten.

Don David’s set was enhanced by Matthew Benjamin’s amazing lighting effects. They created moods that never let you forget that there was going to be an iceberg. The actors, magnificently costumed, reflected an age of elegance. Each scene was carefully choreographed to maintain the essence of the characters.
I am gong to mention certain performances which struck me. Some would be considered minor roles or moments but their effect is notable.

Matthew Kopec and Eric Byrd are ending their college careers. These handsome bundles of talent have zipped through song and dance as well as serious roles. They both took their characters to that zone of true theater. Sophomore Molly Emerson bounded joyously though her role as a bellboy.

Muse Machine veteran Katie O’Neal had the comic relief. As a “first-class wannabe,” she shone with beauty and effervescent enthusiasm. Freshman Jason Collins had a difficult role. As Bruce Ismay, ship line owner, he pushed Captain Smith, played with patient decorum by Senior Jerome Doerger, to the limit. It was Ismay’s insatiable desire for a speed record which led the ship directly into the path of the fatal berg.

There is a scene in Titanic, the stage play, that is so important and so meaningful now. 3rd Class passengers, bound for that golden Medina, America, sing of their dreams. “I want to be a lady’s maid, a lady’s maid in America.” It is the dream of America.

There was a time when immigrants were also the hope of our great country. They came to build a better life. They built that life and built America.

Now, we view our immigrant population with suspicion. Are they coming to build America or to take from America? That is a political division which is undermining us.

The electric scene in Titanic reflects what we were and must become again. The three Kates, all lovely, are led by Sophomore Alex Sunderhaus, a rare beauty with a fine voice. Their dreams - a lady’s maid, a governess, a sewing girl - ring a clear clarion call.

Congratulations to every person who made this such an unforgettable experience.

Bravo, Wright State.

Demirjian Chamber Concert

The unforgettable play was preceded by an unforgettable concert. Of the many achievements of the Dayton Philharmonic are the Demirjian Chamber Exploration Series. These concerts have evolved into absolute gems featuring music in its most intimate form.

Original chamber concerts were meant for the salons of great houses or the living rooms of small ones. The composers never imagined the acoustic perfection of the Schuster Center.

The latest concert featured the Principal Quartet augmented by an additional cello. I prefer to call the ensemble the DPO Principal Quintet. Each is a marvelous virtuoso artist.

The concert was devoted to one work, Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major. This is Schubert’s final chamber work before he was lost to the world at age 31. It is so complete that it could be called a symphony for a quintet. I simply call it breathtaking.

The artists, Jessica Hung and Kirsten Greenlaw, violinists, Sheridan Currie, violist and Andra Padrichelli and Christina Coletta, cellists, took the music into realms never heard in a recorded performance.

I think that this was my first live hearing of the quintet. In many recorded experiences, I missed so much of the sheer beauty of the ensemble.

The first movement, long tones with strident accents, contained solos for each of the players. It was the second, Adagio, which was transporting. As the quartet played a lament, perhaps the most joyous lament imaginable, Christina Coletta maintained a pizzicato refrain delicately covering a dynamic range with engaging subtleties.

The third movement sandwiched a magnificent trio between frenetic tutti playing accenting each instrument. Jessica Hung, during her brief solos, had to move from bowed notes to pizzicato seamlessly.

The final movement was a dance. The music seemed to toss the dancers high into the air with great energy and let them return to earth with great softness.

An unforgettable concert, I am personally so grateful to the artists, to the Demirjians and to Maestro Neal for the selection of this Mt. Everest of chamber music.


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June 2, 2009
Volume 18, No. 22

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