Tragic personal stories add drama to ‘Titanic’


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Five Tony Awards including Best Musical and over 800 performances means “Titanic, the Musical” celebrated success on Broadway, and the monumental task to bring a large scale musical of its nature to the limited confines of The Arts Asylum stage certainly delivered huge obstacles for the cast and production team to overcome–which they did.

The tragic story of the Titanic and its maiden voyage remains one of the biggest maritime disasters of all time with less than 600 survivors of the 1914 catastrophe. Knowing the story adds an eerie effect to the musical version. Very definitely “Titanic, the Musical” stays far from the musical comedy traditions and highlights the expanded genre to musical theater where more realistic, and sometimes difficult, story-lines are explored.

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The main focus is the ship and the doomsday finality of the Atlantic crossing. The book of the musical creates characters and scenarios to add something for the audience to understand the “perfect storm scenario” that helps create theatrics. The “owner” wants a no-holes-bared, rapid crossing from Britain to New York. The captain makes a couple of poor choices to accommodate the owner. The luxury-liner short-circuited safety measures in lieu of amenities for wealthy passengers. The passengers pinned their hopes and dreams on various opportunities after reaching America. Woven together, the elements of good storytelling and a difficult but beautifully written score give the feel of a Broadway show.

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As with so many local Kansas City shows, the talent pool to draw from far exceeds the roles and opportunities available. Kipp Simmons and Delano Mendoza had no problem filling the vocal demands for “Titanic, the Musical” with stunning vocalists top to bottom. “Titanic, the Musical” requires a large cast and with all on stage at one time, the performance area overflows with splendid voices. Masculine voices dominate the score with so many of the central characters being men. The men’s ensemble possesses some of the best voices in the metro. Too many to remember them all, the stand-outs were Matt Runnels-Rebol, Matt Fowler, Scott Kruse, Gabriel Van Dyne, Gregory Williams, Tony Francisco, and Kyle Tichenor. Three of the women that stand out are Anne Haines, Joy Richardson, and Margo Mikkelson.

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The enormity of the cast, coupled with the complexity of the story does not allow the viewer to connect fully with characters and their individual stories. The couples that stand out for their stories, their acting, and their voices are Joy Richardson and David Loethen, Margo Mikkelson and Rob Reeder, and Anne Haines and Kyle Tichenor. They had the smaller stories within the story that audiences can connect.

The balance of the cast supports the main character, but the show is just too big to develop more sub-plots without distracting viewers. As for the staging and technical aspects of “Titanic, the Musical,” lighting, set design, costumes, musical direction, and props equaled the talent on stage. The one difficult aspect was sound in the performance space. Give credit to Sean Lestico for doing a great job in a difficult space. At times the words or lyrics are lost but with so many microphones, the position of the orchestra, and the many moving actors, the challenge is immense.

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Director Kipp Simmons runs a tight ship in this case with so many actors, changing scenes, and arranging for entrances and exits without disaster. “Titanic, the Musical” works because of his vision to present a gigantic show in a small space. He is to be congratulated.

The cast of the Barn Players “Titanic, the Musical” includes: Officers & Crew: Corinne Bakker, Rod Chapin, Christoph Cording, Tony Francisco, Erin Gilmore, Tyler Harper, Scott Kruse, Kathleen Marx, Hewleek McKoy, Susan Neu, Issac Pena, Rob Reeder, Kat Ruprecht, Trevor Thoelke, Nathaniel Thomas, Kyle Tichenor, Gabriel Van Dyne, Gregory Williams, Gary Wesche, and Miles Wirth. 1st Class Passengers: Paula Bowers, Stasha Case, Rod Chapin, Christoph Cording, Matt Fowler, Tyler Harper, Trudy Hurley, Sarah Jeter, Tressa Lee, David Loethen, Hewleek McKoy, Joy Richardson, Matt Runnels-Rebol, and Gregory Williams. 2nd Class Passengers: Cameron Gunter, Margo Mikkelson, and Nancy Seeman; 3rd Class Passengers: Anne Haines, Chandler Johnson, Megan McCranie, and Kyle Tichenor.

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The Barn Players “Titanic, the Musical” is directed by Kipp Simmons; Musical direction is by Delano Mendoza; Choreography is by Rob Reeder; Accompaniment is by Tim Braselton; Stage management is by Emily Vargo; Assistant stage management & assistant direction is by Jessica Michael; Settings & construction are by Bill Wright; Lighting design is by Phil Leonard; Sound design is by Sean Leistico; Costume design is by Brooke Merriam, and Projection design is by John Edmonds.

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The Barn’s “Titanic” orchestra is lead by Musical director Delano Mendoza. The orchestra members are: Tim Braselton (Accompanist), Laurie Schwab (Keys), Todd Gregory-Gibbs (Keys), Todd Etter (Violin I), Christina Dyer (Violin II), Jason Rideout (Viola), Benjamin Schwab (Cello), Bill Wood (Bass), Lee Hake (Trumpet I), Dustin Huxman (Trumpet II), Lee Finch (Trombone I), Chacko Finn (Trombone II), Andy Johnson (Horn I), Daniel Graham (Horn II), Deana Wagoner (Reed I), Ron Mundt (Reed II), David McIntire (Reed III), Danielle Mays (Reed V), John Gilmore (Percussion I).

“Titanic, the Musical” continues at The Arts Asylum just east of downtown Kansas City, Missouri for weekends through Feb. 23. Tickets are available by calling the box office or visiting The Barn Players website.

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Tags: “Titanic” review, Barn Players, The Arts Asylum, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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