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‘Titanic’ leaves port with honest story, epic musical production

(Photos by Matt Reynolds)

Propelled by a large ensemble cast, soaring musical score, inventive scene design, and choreography created by students themselves, the Liberty University Department of Theatre Arts’ production of “Titanic” will embark on its heartfelt journey in the Tower Theater this weekend.

Opening on Broadway in 1997, the same year as the Oscar-winning, semi-fictional movie of the same name, “Titanic” tells the true stories of real passengers and their fates, across all social classes, in the infamous sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. The show won in five categories at that year’s Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Scenic Design.

There are 40 members in the cast, the largest in an academic production at Liberty in 12 years.

With a 40-member cast, wide variety of sets, and sweeping sung-through musical storytelling — meaning songs entirely or almost entirely replace any spoken dialogue — the show is an exciting challenge for the department, according to chair Linda Nell Cooper, the show’s director.

“We’ve never staged this show before, and I’m not sure why except for the fact that it’s a huge production,” Cooper said. “It takes a large cast and a large set, and I think the size of it intimidated us a little bit. It’s a show about faith and courage in the midst of adversity, with diversity among those involved.”

Audiences are likely very familiar with the historical “unsinkable” Titanic, Cooper said, but this show will deepen their connection to the tragedy by depicting the passengers — from the wealthy first class down to those who were scrounging for a better life in America.

“The show brings the humanity of the story to us because it’s all of these little stories of these passengers. They loved, had goals and dreams, they left things behind and had lives ahead of them. It makes it very real for all of us because it could have been anyone on that ship, and today in 2024 it could be any of us. It’s a disaster story that isn’t dictated by time.”

Cooper said this marks the largest cast in 12 years for a Liberty academic production, excluding performances by Liberty’s professional theater company, Alluvion Stage Company, and is an even mix of students from all classes, freshmen to seniors.

To tell such a massive story, it takes a cast that knows how to support one another and shares the same level of enthusiasm.

“It’s the type of show where everyone is constantly coming on and off the stage, so they all depend on one another to keep the story going,” Cooper said. “It’s a sung-through musical, so we just keep going with no breaks (for dialogue). I also think it’s helped with the camaraderie off-stage because everyone understands how important they are to the story and to each other.”

Many theatre students are taking on heightened roles for “Titanic,” including seniors Charity Turley and Armon Davis and sophomore James Covington, who have been responsible for all of the choreography.

“We’re all dance minors, so I think that’s already a part of who we are, and whenever these opportunities come up in the department, we jump to be a part of it,” Turley said. “Because dance is a big part of our lives, having the rare opportunity to get to choreograph something was really exciting for us.”

Each was tasked with choreographing one of the three social classes represented, with the opportunity to bring in their personal dance backgrounds and experiment in new styles.

“We have our main styles that we go toward in our numbers, but we also have certain numbers that push us to change it up and bring something different,” Davis said.

“Our original choreography in those auditions (to be choreographers), without even thinking about any particular social class, definitely represented which one we got hired for. Being in the show as cast members too, we get to build off of what we think our characters would do too.”

Directing their peers, the trio agreed, has been an opportunity to sharpen their artistic and leadership skills while also being a part of the large cast.

“There have been times where we’re the choreographer and the person giving people things to do, and there’s other times where we change hats and become their friend and castmate again. Everyone has been really respectful, and it’s been a fun opportunity for the three of us.”

The dancers in the show will have quite the accompaniment as well, as the Tony-winning music and orchestrations will fill the theater with what Cooper described as “epic” and “lush” numbers from start to finish. With School of Music professor Dr. Katherine Wert as musical director, the musical score will be played live by a professional orchestra comprised of members of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra, Liberty professors, and guest musicians from the surrounding area.

For tickets to “Titanic,” visit the box office website.



  • Feb. 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, and March 1, 2 — 7:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 17, 24, and March 2 — 2 p.m.
  • Feb. 18, 25, and March 3 — 3 p.m.
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