‘Titanic: The Musical’ retells captivating tragedy in Greenville

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"Titanic: The Musical" shares the tragic story of the many lives lost in 1912. Photo by Will Crooks.

The tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912 continues to fascinate people 107 years later. The story will come alive in Greenville at Bob Jones University’s “Titanic: The Musical” for its South Carolina premiere.

With about a 65-member cast starring six Broadway guest artists, the musical tells the stories of multiple passengers aboard the Titanic on its maiden voyage from England to New York. Director Darren Lawson, dean of BJU’s School of Fine Arts and Communication, decided about two years ago to bring the show to Greenville.

“There’s not really one main character,” Lawson says. “Many of the people that are represented in the production were real people.”

In contrast, the movie “Titanic,” which premiered eight months after the musical, focuses on two fictional characters.

“The musical version doesn’t isolate one or two characters, but rather focuses on a host of characters throughout the crew, first, second, and third class,” Lawson says. “The musical does a better job, in my opinion, of capturing the broader story of what happened that fateful evening.”

“Titanic: The Musical” offers audiences an inside look at various lives. “When the disaster hits, it really didn’t matter what class they were in — they all died,” he says.

The stage will be transformed into the ship’s hull with towers and a crow’s nest, along with projections to re-create the tragic scenes. Some 1,500 passengers were killed the night the Titanic struck the iceberg.

“Everybody knows what happened with the Titanic, and there’s no surprise ending in this production,” Lawson says, “but I think people can come and find out that the people on that boat were just like us.”

Watching the musical and knowing the people who died, Lawson says, makes the event even more tragic. The five-time Tony Award-winning musical blends music and story to create an emotional journey back in time.

“[The central theme] is that despite our technological advances, those technological advances are still built by flawed humans,” he says.

Lawson says the musical shows audiences the humanity of the tragedy. It says, take the small ship and you put everybody in it, and you find out that everybody really is equal in the end.”

Through a partnership with the Titanic Museum Attraction of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, actual artifacts will be on display in the Rodeheaver lobby.

One especially interesting artifact was excavated from the ocean floor amidst the Titanic wreckage 75 years later — the leather music portfolio from the head of the band.

Titanic Museum owner John Joslyn and wife Mary Kellogg-Joslyn will attend the opening night of “Titanic” in Greenville. John Joslyn co-led the 1987 exploration of the Titanic wreckage, where he recovered many artifacts in his 32 dives.

“I’m really excited that they’re going to be coming and partnering,” Lawson says. Also through the partnership, guests will receive boarding passes with real passengers’ biographies on them.

“It’s going to be like typical grand, big productions that we’re kind of known for,” he says. “It’s hard to see a production like this that’s going to be done on this scale.”

‘Titanic: The Musical’

When: 8 p.m. March 14-16
Where: Rodeheaver Auditorium, 1700 Wade Hampton Blvd., Greenville
Tickets: $25-$45
Info: bju.edu/titanic

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