No need to jump into those life boats. After all, it’s only a musical. And the Griffin Theatre Company has gathered a talented crew to navigate the waters of its upcoming revival of “Titanic,” the show — in a newly revised and more intimate version — that features a score by Maury Yeston, book by Peter Stone and new orchestrations by Ian Weinberger.
Running Oct. 18 – Dec. 7 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, this “Titanic” also has a first-rate captain in director Scott Weinstein, who returns to the Griffin after having directed its production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Weinstein, co-artistic director of Buzz22 Chicago (where he directed the Midwest premiere of “She Kills Monsters” as part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s Garage Series), also is responsible for the hugely engaging production of “Seussical” that ran at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater this summer.
His music director for the show will be Elizabeth Doran (who did such fine work on TimeLine’s recent production of “Juno.”) Chicago will be the first major U.S. city to experience this newly reworked version of the story of the passengers – in first, second and third class – who were aboard the ill-fated luxury liner Titanic in the nights leading up to its fatal encounter with an iceberg in the North Atlantic in 1912.
The original Broadway “Titanic” earned five 1997 Tony Awards including Best Musical, but it has been a massively expensive work to mount beyond Broadway. In 2012, original Broadway cast member Don Stephenson developed a new chamber version of the musical – a scaled down production using 20 actors (instead of the original 45) to play all of the roles, and new orchestrations designed to make the score sound as if it was being played by the ship’s band. Material previously cut from the original Broadway production was restored to the show, and existing material was reordered and reassigned.
This new intimate version of “Titanic” opened in July 2012 at The Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY followed by an off-West End production at London’s Southwark Playhouse in July 2013, which earned multiple awards. The production was scheduled for a six-week, pre-Broadway engagement at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre during the summer of 2014, to be followed by a Broadway opening in the fall of 2014. But both engagements were postponed due to a lack of available Broadway theater space for the 2014-15 season.
The 20-member cast of Griffin’s “Titanic” will include: Kelley Abbel as Kate Murphey, Justin Adair as Fred Barret, Neala Barron as Alice Beane, Patrick Byrnes as Charles Lightoller, Matt Edmonds as Charles Clarke, Emily Grayson as Ida Strauss, Courtney Jones as Kate McGowan, John Keating as Henry Etches, Royen Kent as Harold Bride, Josh Kohane as Frederick Fleet, Eric Lindahl as Thomas Andrews, Scott Alan Luke as J. Bruce Ismay, Jake Mahler as Edgar Beane, Laura McClain as Caroline Neville, Christine Perkins as Kate Mullins, Kevin Stangler as Jim Farrell, Sean Thomas as Isador Strauss and Peter Vamvakas as Captain Smith. The design team will include: Joe Schermoly (sets), Rachel Sypniewski (costumes), Brandon Wardell (lighting), Christopher Kriz (sound) and Adam Goldstein (dialect coach). Previews run Oct. 18-25, with an official opening set for Oct. 26. Tickets ($30 for previews; $39 for the regular run), are available at http://www.theaterwit.org, in person at the Theater Wit box office or by calling (773) 975-8150.