Iceberg, Let Us Pray

She sank in 1912, but she keeps sailing on. The White Star Line's Titanic, either the last great tragedy of 19th-century imperial hubris or the first great tragedy of technological hubris, has sailed through innumerable books, at least three movies -- one of them the magnum chick flick of all time -- at least one TV miniseries and far too many documentaries.

It's not surprising, really. Without the need to invent a whit of fiction, the story has just about everything -- spectacle, horror, adventure, dramatic irony, class consciousness, excruciating errors in judgment, craven villains, romantic heroes, noble sacrifices and a pageant of interesting historical figures.

But Titanic on stage? Titanic, the musical?

You bet. Broadway's Titanic: A New Musical (was there an old musical of Titanic?) arrives at Gammage this Tuesday. It runs through Sunday, July 2, closing out the 10th annual Valley Broadway Series.

The show, with a book by Peter Stone (1776) and music and lyrics by Murray Yeston (Grand Hotel), opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in April 1997, months before James Cameron's massive movie version. It had already nabbed five Tonys, including the one for best musical and, no doubt just as important, best set, by the time Cameron declared himself King of the World at the Oscars. Despite some of the inevitable conflations and liberties, Stone's show boasts a more scrupulous adherence to historical accuracy than Cameron's. Most of the major characters here are historical personages like J.J. Astor, Isadore and Ida Straus and Benjamin Guggenheim.

Moreover, the stage show's production notes assure us that it is not depressing, but rather a "joyous, breathtaking and often heartbreaking show that captures the scope and humanity of what went on during the ship's historic voyage."

Well, maybe. Besides, think of it this way: Considering the irresistible headlines it must have offered the New York critics, you have to admire a show with the chutzpah to name itself after the most famous ship ever to founder.

Titanic: A New Musical is performed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 27; 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 28; 8 p.m. Thursday, June 29; 8 p.m. Friday, June 30; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, July 1; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 2, at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. Tickets range from $29.50 to $49.50. For details call 480-965-3434.

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M.V. Moorhead
Contact: M.V. Moorhead