the Musical” steams to the Milwaukee Theatre
Wisconsinite Geoff Karnish provides a preview to "Titanic," an emotionally charged Broadway musical.
We may all be slightly brainwashed by James Cameron’s Titanic. Jack and Rose are historical characters, right? And someone should probably go find the Heart of the Ocean. And everyone knows that 3D is what we really need to capture the emotional history of the Titanic’s final hours.
In the 100 year anniversary of the tragedy, it may help to forget what we know and discover the heart and history of the Titanic. This weekend, Titanic: The Musical, at the Milwaukee Theatre, hopes to inspire and uplift by telling truer tales of the passengers’ class struggles, and explore the crew’s judgment calls that lead to the tragic disaster.
Wisconsinite Geoff Karnish plays First Officer Murdoch in the musical, and stresses that Titanic’s history is pivotal.
“This musical was actually released before James Cameron’s movie,” says Karnish. “A lot of research went into it. It’s about actual passengers and their experiences on the Titanic. Don’t expect the movie. It’s a completely different and beautiful show.”
Karnish grew up in Port Washington and received a musical theater degree from UW La Crosse. He’s been touring a lot since then, and says he’s excited to be home again.
“I grew up seeing traveling shows in Milwaukee; it was a big deal for our family. When I was old enough I started going on my own and loved every minute of it. I always hoped I would get to do the same thing. It means a lot to be doing this in Milwaukee.”
Karnish explains that because everyone knows the story’s outcome, Titanic: The Musical focuses on the conflicts within the story.
“There’s a beautiful group number that illustrates the first class. Then we juxtapose it with a number from the third class passengers. It’s very effective.”
Obviously, the sinking of the Titanic is the climax of the story. In the Broadway production, the set was technically elaborate and actually “sunk,” but there were a lot of issues come show time. The set at the Milwaukee Theatre works more as an optical illusion.
“The show is almost like a ballet,” says Karnish “there’s a lot of movement from the characters to illustrate the sinking, rather than relying on the set.”
In regards to the music, by Maury Yeston, Karnish says “it’s such an epic score. It reminds me of music from Les Mis or The Phantom of the Opera. It’s very powerful, especially because the characters are so excellently developed.”
Karnish believes the second act is especially emotional, as it shows the chaotic loading of lifeboats and tearful goodbyes. “We’ll Meet Tomorrow” is a song about saying goodbye to loved ones, knowing that they’ll meet on the other side.
With all the Hollywood glamor surrounding the Titanic, it’s easy to forget that this was a historical tragedy, with over 1,500 lives lost.
“The message is that in the end, class doesn’t matter,” says Karnish. “Everyone dies human.”
Titanic: The Musical runs Fri. Oct. 12 and Sat. Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Milwaukee Theatre. Tickets start at $38 online or call 800-745-3000.