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2 minute read
Ginia Bellafante

The dozens of historical accounts, songs and poems, four feature films, one TV miniseries, one symphony and one long-running Las Vegas spectacular have apparently not surfeited the world’s appetite for Titanica. By the time James Cameron’s movie arrives in theaters next summer, audiences will already be humming Nearer My God to Thee, thanks to a new storm of Titanic mania.

This week on television: Titanic, an all-new two-part miniseries on CBS. Why another recounting? “This is an endlessly fascinating and timeless story,” defends executive producer Frank Konigsberg before hinting at the tragedy’s real resonance for Hollywood types. “It’s like the opening night of the biggest movie in the world flopping.” This Titanic features a shipboard thief-rapist, played with curious jauntiness by Tim Curry. Unlike his doomed fellow passengers, Curry’s character manages to escape from lines like “The ocean is so big, isn’t it? It makes one feel so small and insignificant.”

A more thoughtful treatment of the ultimate boating mishap can be found in a Discovery Channel documentary that aired in October, as well as in four new books, three of them novels. Historian Steven Biel’s Down with the Old Canoe argues against the notion that the Titanic’s plummet marked the end of the age of innocence and of rigid class structure. “In my opinion,” he writes, “the disaster changed nothing except shipping regulations.”

Perhaps the most curious Titanic project is a Broadway musical planned for this spring and titled, inevitably, Titanic (no exclamation point). “This isn’t going to be The Love Boat,” insists composer and lyricist Maury Yeston. The show has been the butt of Broadway jokes, but Yeston contends that the Titanic lends itself perfectly to musical theater. “Part of the story is hubris, part is profoundly human,” he explains. “This is the stuff of musical theater: people are so moved they can no longer speak. They are forced to sing.” Or sink.

–By Ginia Bellafante

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