The Captain’s Choir of Fitzhugh Park School presented music teacher Garrett Heater with a herculean task as they wanted a musical based on the maritime tragedy Titanic for their annual musical.
Heater explained, “We always start with about 25 themes suggested by the choir members and through the democratic process of voting, the students whittle the themes down to their favorite. I was thrilled and terrified to see the theme of Titanic rising to the top of the list.”
“Tillie and Tipper Aboard the Titanic” will be performed on Thursday and Friday at the Robinson-Faust Theatre at 7 p.m. and there will be no admission fee.
Aside from the massive production elements required to bring a 52,000 ton ship to life on the Faust-Robinson stage (FPS art teacher Missy Valenzuela has been hard at work with her able stage crew students), Heater found the most difficult aspect of turning Titanic into a musical to be a competition with the popular James Cameron film.
He noted, “I needed an angle that would get our audience members to see Titanic in a new way – without the film’s fictitious characters Jack and Rose. While researching first-hand accounts on the sinking, I came across a BBC recording of a woman who was only 7 when Titanic sank. Her name was Eva Hart and she spoke about how she would often play with the dog of a 1st class passenger who was walked on her 2nd class deck. I had no idea there were dogs on the ship at all, I did more research and found many facts about the 10 dogs who were aboard Titanic and their owners. Here was the inspiration I needed – so the new musical is told through the eyes of a young 3rd class Irish girl, 6 of the dogs, and their owners.”
The dogs include Tipper (Randy Bills), a fox terrier who befriends Tillie (Hannah Rowley) and her older brother Georgie (Eric Young) during the ill-fated voyage, as well the prize-winning french bulldog Gamin de Pycombe (Hermes Jimenez), poodle Frou-Frou (Crissa Cabanlig), King Charles spaniel (Hannah Holland), great dane Lincoln (James Hibbert-Nelson), and airedale Kitty (Monet Barnes) who happens to be the dog of the multi-millionaire J.J. Astor (Joe Skillen) who famously did not survive the shipwreck.
Other non-fiction characters include Helen Bishop (Shameeka Laliveres), Ann Isham (Alexandria Arens), Captain Smith (Derek Putnam), 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller (Zachary Warren), and Lucy Carter (Alyssa McClymond).
First, second and third class passengers include Mitchell Hudson, Alexis James, Keilaya Leyva, Carsyn Mahaney, Sabrina Swank, Natalia Trapasso, Marissa Forger, Alexis Vivlemore, Megan Enos, Katie Swinson, Kaylyne Westberry, Jaime Thompson, Alyssa Robinson, McKenna LaSalle, Gracie Hoffman, Alexis Johnson, Gracelynn O’Connor, Hunter Smith, Jared LaSalle, Aaron Hibbert, Jade Comstock, Jaden Wyman, Katelyn Place, Dakotah Allen, Emily Alnutt, Gabrielle Valentin, and Liberty McCracken while Micheala Sheppard and Jessica Pullen portray the ship’s maids.
The show features 23 musical numbers played by a 13-piece pit orchestra comprised completely of Oswego High School students, including Paul Oleyyourrek and Ryan Smith who participated on stage six years ago in 2 of Heater’s original FPS shows.
“It’s wonderful when former FPS students return to participate in the new shows – it makes me proud to be a teacher in this district. And yes – the ship does sink on stage,” Heater said.
Heater noted, “The musical is family-friendly, but does deal with sensitive topics such as death and the loss of pets.”