The Unsinkable Titanic Cruises to Town with a Lilt

August 6, 2018
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By Mary Ann Bourbeau |

The cast of “Titanic the Musical” rehearsed their steps recently. The Premier Theatre Company will bring the production to the Henderson Theater at Christian Brothers Academy Aug. 10 – 12. Courtesy Premier Theatre

LINCROFT – “Titanic the Musical,” which won five Tony Awards in 1997 including Best Musical, is sailing into the Henderson Theater at Christian Brothers Academy for three performances from Aug. 10-12.

The Premier Theatre Company brings the story of that magnificent ship and its passengers to life in the ensemble version of the musical, with songs by Maury Yeston and a book by Peter Stone. The show is set onboard the RMS Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, taking with it some 1,517 people. The victims included John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, two of the wealthiest men of the Victorian era. The musical tells of the hopes and dreams of those on board the “unsinkable” ship – the rich, the poor, the heroes and the cowards.

“‘Titanic the Musical’ is not a musical adaptation of the James Cameron movie,” said Stephen Rubino of Howell, who portrays Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, the company that built the ocean liner. “It’s a real life story with actors portraying real life people, who all have a story to tell. The script is well written and the music brilliantly captures the excitement, the love, the anxiety and the sorrow, which is what ‘Titanic’ is all about.”

Rubino was hooked on theater since his first role in “Alice in Wonderland” at age 8. He has performed in regional theater for 30 years and was part of Premier’s inaugural season in 1990 with a role in “A Chorus Line.” Here he plays Ismay, who was determined to make Titanic’s maiden voyage a success by pushing the captain to break records and arrive in New York a day ahead of schedule.

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“I saw “Titanic” on Broadway in 1997 and absolutely loved it,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was more curious on how they would sink the ship on stage than anything else. But the opening scene drew me in and I was instantly along for the ride.”

Shelley Ziegler of Eatontown portrays Alice Beane, a second-class passenger who longs to be accepted into first class, much to the chagrin of her husband.

“Although the story of Titanic is ultimately a tragedy, the musical has several bright spots of which Alice plays an important part,” she said. “She is funny and just wants to be one of the ‘in’ crowd.”

Ziegler, a longtime member of the Monmouth Civic Chorus, has been performing with area theater groups for more than 30 years. She made her Premier Theatre debut as Abigail Adams in a production of “1776,” which is where she first met Rubino.

“It’s lovely to be reunited with him onstage,” she said.

Robert Cioffi is directing his first show at Premier, but he is no novice. Cioffi has taught at the County College of Morris for 35 years and is currently head of the drama department. A resident of Oakhurst, he is aiming to establish himself in community theater in Monmouth County as he inches closer to retirement.

“Everyone is so welcoming at Premier Theatre,” he said. “They all volunteer their time and talent to this show, which is technically demanding. It’s very inspiring to see a group of people this dedicated to theater.”

Cioffi said the beauty of Titanic’s score surprised many people when the show debuted on Broadway.

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“There’s a lot of ensemble singing,” he said. “It’s very moving and uplifting. Act 1 is the voyage itself and there are a lot of light moments. It ends when they hit the iceberg. It turns dramatic in Act 2, and the music is very melodic and stirring.”

Premier formed as a nonprofit theater in 1990 and stages four to eight shows a year. Its first show was “Sunday in the Park with George” – the first company to present the show after its Broadway run.

The theater company also supports area causes, often donating tickets or raising funds for community service organizations. Before the Aug. 11 performance of “Titanic,” Premier Theatre will host a Bon Voyage Tea, in which High Tea will be served from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall on the CBA campus. Tickets are $25 and include a variety of teas, sandwiches, scones and desserts served in a period-appropriate atmosphere. A portion of sales will be donated to Family Resource Associates.

“The producers and the Board of Directors always try to come up with an experience you can’t have anywhere else and a High Tea seemed to fit perfectly,” said Cioffi.

“Titanic the Musical” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10 and Saturday, Aug. 11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12. Tickets are $22 to $28 and are available at

Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at

This article was first published in the August 2 – 9, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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