Don’t look for Rose and Jack on board this Titanic. Unlike the 1997 blockbuster film, Conestoga’s spring musical “Titanic: The Musical” is not the romantic tale starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Instead, it tells the true story of the 1912 sinking of the luxury ocean liner.
“Titanic: The Musical” incorporates many characters who actually sailed on the Titanic during its maiden voyage 100 years ago. From the set builders to the musicians, everyone involved in ’Stoga’s “Titanic” is working to make this production as historically accurate as possible.
“There’s not much of a love story in this musical,” junior Stephen Christner said. In “the movie ‘Titanic,’ the story line is completely different and they get a lot of the historical facts wrong.”
Some of the cast members said that portraying their characters is a challenge, but it is important to them to transform the Conestoga stage into an accurate portrayal of the 1912 ocean liner.
“We are not just playing a character who was made up out of [someone’s] imagination,” said freshman Noah Berkowitz, who plays the character John Jacob Astor, one of the richest men on the ship. “We’re real people, so we want to try to convey them as realistically as [possible].”
The historical accuracy of “Titanic: The Musical” distinguishes this show from others director Nicole Gerenyi has produced at Conestoga. This aspect of the musical also makes the production more challenging for many of the student actors and actresses involved.
“It’s hard to find historical accuracy in something that happened 100 years ago,” Gerenyi said. “Even the news headlines [historians] find contradict each other.”
Nevertheless, Gerenyi is working with the cast and crew to realistically recreate the tragedy.
“It’s a real historical event, so all of these people existed,” Gerenyi said. “It’s cool to build a character off of a photo that you can find online.”
The makeup crew works with photographs of the real passengers to transform the actors into those characters. Senior Geoffrey Hegg must spend hours in the makeup chair to better portray his 67-year-old character, Isidor Straus.
“We’re going to try [to] make me look like [Straus],” Hegg said. “I’ll probably be given a fake beard and fake glasses.”
In addition to their appearances, the actors also attempt to imitate their characters’ various accents. From German to old English, many cast members have to learn an entirely new way of speaking.
“It was 1912, so even if [my character] had an American accent, it would be different from the one we speak with today,” Berkowitz said.
"Titanic: The Musical," which shows from Feb. 29-March 3, will strive to portrayh the actual incident as accurately as possible. Lavi Ben-Dor/The SPOKE
In order to help the show stay true to the facts, freshman Andrew McKeough has volunteered to be the show’s historian. McKeough, who has studied the history of the Titanic since first grade, helps Gerenyi and the cast convey historical information about the Titanic.
Considering all “the information that we have, it’s going to be as historically accurate as we can [make it],” McKeough said. “It’s going to be one of the best interpretations.”
Although straying from historical accuracy is sometimes necessary to adapt the story into a musical, Gerenyi hopes to adapt the show to ’Stoga without bypassing the true story.
Overall, we want to “pay [our] respects to the people that were on that ship,” Gerenyi said.
Aly Mingione can be reached at email@example.com.