Last week, my friend Dan took me as his plus-one to a preview performance of Titanic: The Musical at London’s Grand Theatre. It’s this year’s high school project. I’ve seen many of them – you’d never know you’re watching high school students. The talent is first-rate.
The Titanic and I are forever entwined. My ex-husband is a Titanic buff. He belonged to the Titanic Historical Society before the Internet was available to gather people with similar niche interests. James Cameron invited us to be extras in his Titanic film. He wanted us all there for three weeks. Our jobs prevented that. You might remember that cast and crew all got very sick from food poisoning on that shoot. Later, Vice reported that someone spiked the chowder with drugs. We avoided that and later enjoyed looking for people we knew in brief scenes of the movie.
Derek and I were in Lucan, dressed to portray Isador and Ida Strauss for the hundredth anniversary of Titanic’s sinking. It was a faithful reenactment of that night. We dined on the same dinner served to the first-class passengers on the ship. Isador was a co-founder of Macy’s department stores and Ida refused to get on a lifeboat without him. In the movie, they held each other in their bed as the water rose around them. We had a monologue to deliver to tell the audience their story. Until then, we enjoyed our meal and the company of our friends.
My phone rang. It was one of Derek’s brothers, asking to speak to Derek. I handed him the phone. Derek’s face went ashen. After he hung up, I heard the start of the cue for us to get ready to do our bit on stage.
“What is it?”.
“My Mom died”, he replied, robotically.
They were ready for Isador and Ida. “What do we do?”, Derek asked. I said, “We get up and do our bit. And then we leave during the applause.”
And that’s what happened. It gave us something to concentrate on in a terrible moment. Our performance went great. As we gathered our things from the table I quickly told one of our friends that we’d explain later. We left and drove home crying silent tears.
Derek’s sweet, little Mom who suffered for so long with Parkinson’s disease, died of a heart attack the same night the Titanic sank 100 years earlier. Anytime someone mentions that “unsinkable” ship, it brings my sunny mother-in-law to mind. Her physical limitations rarely got her down. She was unsinkable, too.
Titanic: The Musical is too long and too busy. There’s no one to identify with or root for. James Cameron concocted the story of Jack and Rose to create a necessary emotional connection. You need that thread throughout the performance. So, unless you know a kid in the company, I’d let this ship sail without you.