Published October 5, 2006
In a unique ecumenical collaboration, performers from St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta and Kingswood United Methodist Church in Dunwoody will present “Titanic the Musical” at Kingswood Oct. 12-15 and at St. Thomas Oct. 19-22.
“Titanic the Musical” opened on Broadway in 1997, months before the blockbuster movie of the same name appeared. Enjoying a run of nearly two years, the show won five Tonys with its portrayal of the events leading up to the fateful night in April 1912 when the luxury liner struck an iceberg on its way to New York. The show deals with the class system of the Edwardian Age, weaving in political motivations and the quest for the American dream.
The more than 2,000 passengers on the Titanic came from many backgrounds and faiths. With the October performances of the musical, Catholics and Protestants will join together in a mutual effort, which began with a friendship between Bill Mahlandt, director of the drama ministry at St. Thomas, and Dennis Lewallen, minister of worship and music at Kingswood. The two met years ago while performing in another musical at a community theatre.
Mahlandt said that of the nearly 60 people in the cast, most are members of either Kingswood or St. Thomas, which has supported a drama ministry for over two decades.
“Titanic is too huge an undertaking for one small community theatre. Partnering with Kingswood and this vast network of singers and actors has not only made this production possible, but the results have been remarkably surprising,” Mahlandt said.
Lewallen added that the ecumenical effort has been an eye-opening experience.
“Working with believers of a different denomination has been wonderful—and a reminder that the common ground we share is so much more expansive than the field of our differences,” he said.
“Titanic the Musical” is based on real passengers on the doomed ship. When Father Thomas Byles boarded the Titanic at Southampton, England April 10, 1912, he had no idea how important his presence would be aboard the White Star Line’s maiden voyage. Father Byles, who was a second-class passenger, brought a portable altar aboard and celebrated Mass with the passengers on the ship. He was headed to New York to witness the wedding of his brother, William. When the ship started sinking, Byles surrendered his spot on a lifeboat—helping others board their way to safety. Byles is reported to have heard many confessions in those final hours, leading prayer for those whose fate was doomed.
Reverend John Harper was a Baptist minister who boarded Titanic with his daughter Nina. He was on his way to Chicago to hold a series of revival meetings at the Moody Church on the city’s west side. Reverend Harper put his daughter on a lifeboat, but he went down with the ship.
There were nearly 1,500 passengers still on board when Titanic sank in the frigid waters of the Atlantic. Minutes before the sinking, the ship’s bandmaster Wallace Hartley is said to have chosen “Nearer My God to Thee” as the band’s final song.
“Titanic” will run at Kingswood Church, 5015 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody, Oct. 12-15 and at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 535 Rucker Road, Alpharetta, Oct. 19-22. Showtime on Thursdays-Saturdays is at 8 p.m., and on Sundays at 3 p.m.
For tickets and information, call Kingswood United Methodist Church at (770) 457-1317 or St. Thomas Aquinas Church at (770) 475-4501.