Kentucky native can be seen in first LCPA show of season, ‘Titanic: The Musical’
by Chris Harris Commonwealth Journal
The story of the RMS Titanic isn’t really the story of Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It’s the story of real people, with real lives ... and real losses.
It’s a story that the Somerset audience will be able to see performed live next week — and a story which a native Kentuckian will help bring to life.
Tickets are on sale now for “Titanic: The Musical,” the first show of the Lake Cumberland Performing Arts Center Stage season, presented in partnership with The Center for Rural Development. Produced by Windwood Theatricals, the new touring version of the 1997 Tony Award winner commemorates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the iconic “unsinkable” oceanliner that collided with an iceberg and went down on April 15, 1912.
Broadway-style musicals aren’t uncommon for the LCPA line-up, but most of the performers come from far-flung places. That’s why local audiences may be interested to know they can spot a born-and-bred Bluegrass belle in the cast of “Titanic.”
Taylor Coriell, a 2011 graduate of the University of Kentucky, is one of the 26 actors portraying actual passengers aboard the ship, rather than fictional characters created for dramatic effect, as were Jack and Rose of the movies.
“What I think is so cool (about the musical) is that you meet these people who were there — it makes it so deeply personal,” said Coriell. “You know the outcome — the ship sinks —but you have all these faces who represent the people who died.
“From the get-go, you have young men on the staff coming out and saying that this is the ship of dreams,” she added. “(As an audience member,) you’re like, ‘Don’t get on this ship!’ But you spend the rest of the musical getting to know these people and rooting for them even though you know they can’t all make it.”
Coriell is a native of Lexington, Ky., and attended the School for the Creative and Performing Arts there. Performing is in her blood; Coriell grew up in a musical family, and found herself bitten by the acting bug thanks to a fifth-grade production of “Hello, Dolly!” The marriage of stage and song gave birth to a bright-lights dream for Coriell early on.
“I don’t really remem-ber a time when I didn’t want to be an actor,” she said. “Pretty much everyone in my family plays some kind of musical instrument. It’s important to everybody. I can’t remember a time when we weren’t singing around the piano at Thanksgiving or Christmas.”
In fact, the eight months between “Titanic” and her last performance was the longest Coriell has gone without doing a show. After graduating from UK with a Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance, she scrimped and saved her money and moved to New York, an essential move as the city is a hub for acting gigs.
Despite her Kentucky roots, Coriell adapted to big city life fairly quickly — she’d spent time in New York before and felt relatively comfortable there — though she notes that it takes much longer to get places in the Big Apple, and air conditioning is a luxury, not a given.
“I’ve never been in a town where you didn’t drive everywhere,” she said. “(All the walking) killed my feet.”
Another adjustment: The turn-around for “Titanic” has been short. In college, Coriell would rehearse for a couple of months, then perform a show for about a week. Coriell’s audition for “Titanic,” however was in early August, as she was replacing one of 10 cast members who wouldn’t be going on the tour (the show previously had an eight-performance run in New Jersey). Rehearsals began only about a week ago; there will be only a couple of weeks to get it all down before the two-month tour launches.
“It’s a lot of hard work and lots of hours of my own time, but I’m getting used to this,” said Coriell.
With around 50 characters, the actors must play multiple roles. Coriell portrays Kate Murphy, an Irish immigrant traveling third-class, seeking out America as a chance at a better life. Coriell is also Mme. “Ninette” Aubart, riding in the upscale first-class as the mistress of millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim.
One central theme is that ultimately all of the characters — rich or poor — end up in the same situation. Coriell said the actors were directed to explore the possibility that their characters were the same, only circumstances in their lives had caused their paths to unfold differently.
“Kate is very sassy, and kind of sarcastic; when she gets to America, she wants to be a governess, that’s her grandest of dreams,” said Coriell. “Kate was born to a lower-class family; Aubart was a showgirl but worked her way up to be the mistress of a millionaire.”
As such, Coriell explained, the show delves deeply into the issues of the value of human life and equality.
“The investors who put all this money into (the Titanic) think it’s so grand and so infallible, but the ship sinks and they’re in the same boat as everybody else,” said Coriell. “It doesn’t matter who you are because you’re a person. Whose lives matter more? The answer is, no one matters more.”
Coriell observed that in this presidential election season, when economic and class issues are major news topics and terms like “occupy” and “one percent” have become buzzwords, the show takes on an eerily prescient relevance.
“‘Titanic’ is a show that needs to be seen right now,” said Coriell. “It’s a story about hubris and people getting full of themselves, about pride and classism ... and the consequences of too much pride. It’s a show the whole country should see — and with the tour, it will.”
One thing Coriell is definitely proud of is her old Kentucky home. She’s expecting family and hopefully as many friends as possible to come to Somerset to see her perform — with a musical score she describes as “epic and intricate and complex ... it’s thrilling” — and you can too.
Tickets for “Titanic: The Musical,” on Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 p.m. at The Center are $25 for adults, $15 for any students. There is an additional $1.25 fee per ticket. Patrons can also purchase an entire season package of all five shows or a three-show package of any three shows in the season’s schedule.
“I was so excited (when I found out) that the first show was going to be in Kentucky,” said Coriell. “I can’t wait to start here. I told everyone that they won’t see any place like Kentucky. There’s a lot of places I haven’t been to, but I know of no place as beautiful as Kentucky.”