Roosevelt’s “Titanic”

The musical Titanic has a great protagonist–a doomed ship.   The tough thing is…everybody knows the end of the story.  But strangely, our knowledge of the end is also what gives the story it’s edge.  It’s a god-like power, knowing the person you’re listening to is going to die long before it happens to them.  You even know how they’re going to die.   Every word spoken, every hope expressed, every song sung takes on double meaning; ironies abound.

Roosevelt High School, under the direction of the unflappable Rueben Van Kempen and Beth Orme, has pulled off yet another amazing feat; their current production of Titanic  floats really well.  And with that, I should make it clear at the outset that I’m not really interested in writing a review.  Tonight, I’m more interested in celebrating their work, and the multitude of things in the production that are just right.

Let’s state the obvious; there’s so much talent that rolls through that high school.  The program boasts lots of amazing alums: Noah Racey (Curtains) and Chad Kimball (Memphis), both Broadway leading men, to name a couple, and a ton of other folk (including my two children, but I won’t subject you to more of my fatherly pride) working around the country.   When you see a show a show at this place, it’s easy to understand.   Titanic (and most musicals) demand a lot of solo voices (and given the modern musical theatre voicings, some of these men’s roles are high), but Roosevelt just keeps trotting out these amazing voices, one after the other, ranging in quality from “strong and adequate” to “good” to “really good” to (more often than you’d think) “my gosh, did you hear that?

Performances are strong across the board.  While there are some inexperienced actors in the bunch, but that’s part of the inspiration of the whole enterprise.   Watching some of these students’ blossoming for the first time, going for it with all the guts and charisma they can muster just makes you want to go conquer a world or two of your own.   The faces of the actors wailing away (by that I mean singing with passion), full of this colossal tragedy at sea, I found moving, compelling, and inspiring.

Selfishly, I have to mention that I was very happy to see three students I’ve worked with–Eden Eernissee, Kai Daly, and Conrad Schmechel–doing such strong, honest work.  (Note to them:  You guys were making clear, strong choices, singing beautifully, and carrying your roles like pros.  It’s a joy to see you growing into these tremendous gifts you each possess.)   Those of you who teach know what I’m talking about.

The costumes were great fun, well executed, and there were a million of them.  (Well…).  Anjie used to help coordinate costume stuff at Roosevelt, so I know the hours it takes to cloth that small army.  And hats off to the engineers who made the set tilt.   If you’re going to do Titanic, the stage has to tilt, and after that first cart rolled left to right all on it’s own, I was sold.

That’s enough.  Thanks for another great night of theatre, VK, Beth Orme, Kim Douglass and company.  And on a day when young Joe Sjoberg was on all of our minds, it was a pleasure to see the energy and joy that he brought to that stage exhibited yet again.   Thank God for the replenishment of youth, the inspiration of their commitment, and the hope to which their very presence testifies.

Congratulations to the whole company…

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