Taking on Peter Stone and Maury Yeston's Titanic, the 1997 Broadway musical about the sinking of the great unsinkable ship, is tough, even for the most ambitious theater company.
The star of the show is not the actual tragedy but the lives of the people and the delineation between classes -- passengers whose stories are told, whose hopes are shattered. Gamblers, mistresses, businessmen, matrons and patrons of the arts, the rich and the poor -- all are sailing to New York with a piece of history in their pocket, neatly nestled next to those all-American dreams.
Suddenly, on a frigid night in April 1912, they encounter the realization that the age of possibility and progress has turned into a night to remember.
And a night to remember it was.
Saturday night's performance was not Stage 62's maiden voyage, so the kinks should have been worked out. Yet there were missed lighting cues, horribly malfunctioning mikes and a ship whose list changed back and forth from scene to scene. And the moment of the icy impact? That was a car crash ... right?
Perhaps the production's 61 performers were as thrown as I was by the two children in the third row, chatting and chewing during the entire first act. It got so bad that an usher stepped in and I moved to the back, next to two elderly women who argued that it was Vanderbilt and not Astor who went down with the ship ... while the show went on.
Still, for all the rockin' and rollin', Titanic has a few standouts. The winner is Steve Bruno as radioman Harold Bride, who steals the show with a solid voice and great stage presence. Nicole Sharkey, Anna Gergerich and Lindsay Pascuzzi deliver a lovely "Lady's Maid," one of the many tunes in Yeston's underappreciated score that fully comes to life, despite the overwhelming orchestra and ample amplification misadventures.
Kudos also go to the serving cart in the second act; as it rolls across the stage, the passengers, woken from their deep sleep and gathered in their sleeping attire in the grand salon, refuse to accept they are in deep doo-doo. Nice, haunting and very telling touch by director Becki Toth.
This is when the show sinks fast and the history lesson begins.
Titanic continues through Sun., Nov. 21. Carnegie Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie. 412-429-6262 or www.stage62.com