At exactly 10:41 PM June 1, with approximately 18 minutes left to the Tony Awards telecast, John Cunningham, as Captain E.J. Smith, and 42 (yes! I counted 'em) cast members, finished Titantic's opening launch sequence, filed offstage, and into elevators to the street. Before they got there, Whoopi Goldberg was announcing their show had won Best Musical.
Pandemonium broke out among the jublilant cast. On the 50th Street sidewalk, there were tears and cheers and screams of delight and much hugging and kissing.
Their ship had not only been successfully launched in spite of many obstacles -- such as mixed reviews, rumors of mechanical breakdowns, and initial slow boxoffice -- but it sailed. And much more. It arrived safely in port with the promise of many more "crossings" -- including just announced plans for a national tour.
As the cast boarded their waiting bus to change back at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre from their costumes, they couldn't contain their excitement. There were shouts of "We won! We won."
Kay Walbye, one of the musical's swings whose last Broadway outing was The Secret Garden exclaimed, "This moment's sweeter than you can possible imagine!" As he boarded the bus, Andy Taylor, who plays four roles including one of the ship's officers and one of its passengers, said "Titantic came in under a dark cloud, so this award is tremendous vindication for us. A triumphant ascension!" Winning as the underdog over hopefuls The Life and Steel Pier, gives Titanic the distinction of being the sleeper of the season.
But not according to Taylor, who last season played opposite Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco in Moon Over Buffalo. "We never felt that way," he said. "We always believed in it and thought we had a great shot. We were surprised that we took such hard knocks from the critics, but the audiences have always loved the show. But, in terms of the press, everyone (the new musicals) took some knocks. I can't describe the feeling to overcome all that."
Within 30 minutes of the final curtain at Radio City Music Hall, the majority of cast members had changed and were arriving at the private cast party being given for them and the cast of Once Upon A Mattress, which had given it's final performance Sunday afternoon (both are co-produced by Dodger Endemol Theatricals) at Laura Belle restaurant on West 43rd Street.
Brian d'Arcy James, prominent in the Titanic ensemble as ship stoker Frederick Barrett, said "l'm overwhelmed! My reactions to this night are that I'm, I'm overwhelmed. Overwhelmed! But I'm not entirely surprised. I didn't expect the show to win five Tonys, but I'm glad we did so well."
Allan Corduner, who has the showy role of first class steward Henry Etches, exclaimed, "The win means we finally get the recognition we deserve. We suffered from opening first (among the new musicals), but the ground swell of opinion ever since has been shifting in our favor. I'm here from London, so this is a gas for me."
One thing that hasn't been a gas for Corduner and several other members of the company has been the sniping against their show (as well as the other musicals) in large print ads and radio commercials by another musical, Dream.
Corduner said, "In London, producers are gentlemen. Here, some just masquerade as gentlemen. I don't know why there has to be such shameless competition. A lot of sharks.
"You'd never get an advertisement in the London Times like the one placed here in The New York Times by another show saying their show is a dream and the rest are nightmares [paraphrasing an ad from Dream saying 'There are five new musicals on Broadway, four of them are about your worst nightmare, one of them is a dream. . .'] . I found that quite shocking and in bad taste. I think that rebounds terribly on people's heads. It's very sad that people stoop to such rivalry. Michael David (one of the six principals comprising Dodger Productions) mentioned that in his acceptance speech. Broadway is very big and there's room for a lot of shows to be successful. It's not necessary for people to stick knives in each other."
-- By Ellis Nassour