20-Day Countdown! The Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime: #2: TITANIC, 1997

Two days until the Tony Awards! We are at #2 on my 20-day Countdown of the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime.

Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, we are getting so close!  And the absolute best part of getting close in this countdown means that we are getting to the GOODS!  Yay!  Another musical that sits not only in my top ten of all time, but in my top FIVE of all time (Whew!  Now we're getting prestigious!): Titanic.  Quite frankly, there is nothing like this show.  And no, it's not the movie (The musical came first!).  No, there is no Jack and whoever-the-fuck Kate Winslet played.  No, there is no King of the World.

There is truth.  The show is based on the actual roster list and the actual events of what actually happened to the actual Titanic.  Yes, there are some fictional moments (Hello!  It's a musical!  They are singing; is that not fictional enough for you?), but overall, the story follows the truth of the Titanic's disastrous and infamous maiden voyage and makes you absolutely, unfathomably feel it.  There is no depiction of the Titanic more emotional than this show, and I will stand by that.  From rousing chorus numbers to the simplicity of the Strauses' love song, “Still," this show just packs the perfect punch.  I purchased the original Broadway cast recording when the show was new in 1997; I have probably heard it five hundred times since then; every single time, without fail, I cry my eyes out at “To the Lifeboats," when the fathers and husbands are saying goodbye to their wives and children.  Not just trickles of small tears, but I break down into a wretch of uncontrollable sobs, and someone usually has to pick me up off the floor.  Only the utter sincerity and perfection of this show has ever made me do that.  By now, my husband, when he hears me in the next room blubbering, “Oh no, they don't even see the iceberg, but it's right there!" knows to shout back, “Turn it off right now because they're all going to die miserable deaths, and you won't be able to bear it!"

So, Titanic: The massive production that almost sank.  The high cost of the huge three-level set made it impossible for the show to have out-of-town tryouts before its April 1997 opening, something traditional to most shows on Broadway.  The previews of the show were a technical disaster with the huge model set ship ironically not sinking when it was supposed to.  While most of these technical difficulties were resolved before opening night, the show received almost all negative reviews from every outlet, and the cast feared the show would close quickly.  After a few pep talks, an extremely receptive audience not writing the reviews, Rosie O'Donnell's public fanaticism for the show, and James Cameron's successful film opening in December 1997 to fuel attention in the Titanic disaster, the show became a surprise hit and swept the Tonys, winning all five of its five nominated categories, including Best Musical.

The show featured Michael Cerveris and the still-nearly-unknown-at-the-time-but-now-such-a-household-Broadway-name-that-if-you-don't-know-him-then-you-don't-know-Broadway Brian d'Arcy James.  There is nothing, notHING, NOTHING that Brian d'Arcy James cannot tackle, and he is hands down one of the best musical theater talents to come along in all of Broadway history. Ever.  Period.  Closed for debate.  (If you don't think I live and breathe for “Barrett's Song," then you apparently weren't there when I actually used that song as an audition piece for my turn as waitress Delores Dante in Working.  Yeah, I know -- Who does that?  I did that.)

So here it is, kids, my number-three favorite musical of all time at the 1997 Tonys: Titanic.  Sail on, Ship of Dreams!

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