For all its good intentions, it’s hard to apply the theater’s lessons to life. Take Titanic (the musical), sinking nightly at the Lunt-Fontanne. In striking contrast to Titanic (the ship), Titanic (the musical) is a savage indictment of the class system. Hardly a quatrain passes without some passenger or another musing on the vicissitudes of the prevailing social structures, so cruelly replicated in the boat’s sleeping arrangements. At the top of the second act, they’re formally color coded—monarchical purple for First Class, blue for Second, and, somewhere down among the bottom-feeders, green for Third. Even the token mixed-class couple—she slumming below decks, he having crawled his way up from the hold—are unable to enjoy their socio-economic miscegenation without brooding on its ironies: her father had “a corner on the market”; his had “a market on the corner.” Meanwhile,...


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