4 PM: The Cast Warms Up

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4 PM -- The Cast Warms Up

At 4 PM the members of the cast of Titanic arrive at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre for their pre-show warmup. Dressed in jeans, street clothes, some toting their children in carriers, they gather in the mezzanine lounge. They're chatting about friends who got shows, the news, things they saw on TV -- anything, in fact, except the reality bearing down on them: it's less than four hours to curtain.

Assistant Choreographer Lisa Shriver leads the four dozen actors in stretching and breathing exercises, counting slowly as they bend forward and back. Thought the show has relatively little choreography, they must stay in top physical shape because so much of the show is played on a raked stage -- which gets ever more raked as the ship begins to sink.

As they stretch, the sound of the rock group Ceal is heard blaring from a speaker in the left orchestra, then in the rear mezzanine, then in the rear orchestra. The tech crew say they're testing the sound system one last time "to make sure we're up and running. Piles of Playbills, neatly tied in candystriped bakery string, stand in neat piles, topped by stenciled sheets: "FOR OPENING NIGHT."

On the conductor's wide music stand in the center of the pit are two black books, about one foot by two feet. The one on the left is lettered in gold: TITANIC, Act I; on the right TITANIC, Act II.

Two crew members bump into each other. "Excited?," asks the woman. "Yeah, excited. You look sexy," and off they go.

Another woman crosses the stage and a single round of applause is heard from the wings. "Must be my agent," she murmurs.

At 3:27, composer Maury Yeston arrives, smiling and waving, and leads the cast in vocalises, running up and down scales to make sure everyone's voices are as limber as their backs.

Lights on the stage flash here and there, being tested like the sound system. People occasionally cross the stage with costumes, bunches of flowers, shopping bags, wrapped presents.

At 4:35 the composer gives a brief pep talk and wishes the cast luck. They erupt in applause.

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