‘Titanic The Musical’ Sets Sail in Cocoa Village
By Keith Malone guest reporting for Space Coast Daily.com // April 18, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA — Space Coast Daily.com has gained exclusive “behind the scenes” access to a spectacular production by Brevard’s highly-acclaimed Historic Cocoa Village Players – marking this month’s 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic.
The Players are justifiably known as “Broadway on Brevard.” Whilst memorials to Titanic are enacted all over the world at this time, this home-grown production is taking our region by storm – playing to packed audiences every night at The Playhouse on Brevard Avenue in Cocoa.
“Titanic The Musical” is an extravaganza of music, song and dance – knitted together by high-class acting and technical support from a cast drawn entirely from the Space Coast Daily.com community.
“If people think it’s like Titanic the movie, they couldn’t be more wrong,” said Stacey Hawkins-Smith, the Village Players’ director/producer.
“It’s nothing like it all. It’s fast-moving and covers the whole spectrum of life on board the great ship – from stokers and cooks to the passengers: first, second and third class.”
Not for nothing is Stacey known as the “Drama Mama.” She joined the Historic Cocoa Village Players 22 years ago. At the tender age of 58, she feels she’s got “plenty left in the tank” to keep the Players steaming ahead for a long while yet.
Titanic The Musical opened on April 6 and there’ll be a total of 13 performances until the curtain finally comes down on Sunday, April 22. Due to its popularity, there may well be more shows scheduled. Rehearsals began in early March.
With a cast of 70, it’s a huge production to manage. Many of the cast double up in different roles – coming on as crew members and passengers in different scenes.
Titanic The Musical is also providing a great opportunity for a history lesson. “Every day the cast has its daily fact about the Titanic story,” says producer/director Stacey.
“There’s so much to know about this great disaster of maritime history – and we’re taking full advantage to extend our knowledge of Titanic and its tragic crew and passengers.”
Around the world there are cities and towns which claim a connection to Titanic. It may be the birth place of a crew member or passenger in Sweden or Italy. It could be the final resting place of a Titanic survivor. It could be Branson, Missouri which is a landlocked city with absolutely no connection whatsoever to the ship but which decided to build a Titanic museum – complete with a replica Grand Staircase.
There are many many events and memorials taking place to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic – but most importantly in Southampton from where she sailed and where many of the crew lived, in Belfast where Titanic was built, in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, renamed Cove in south-west Ireland, where Titanic stopped to pick up passengers, in New York where Titanic was heading – and Halifax, Novia Scotia, the nearest port to the sinking where bodies from the lost ship were taken for burial.
Standing Cast of 600 Volunteers
Great credit goes to Daniel Hill for costumes, Ian Cook and Jeremy Phelps for set design and Sharon Metz for hats and wigs. Plus there’s a massive pat on the back for Bob Barone as musical director and to all members of the orchestra. Once the show starts, there’s music right through to the final curtain. It never stops.
The Players have a standing cast of 600 volunteer actors, artists, technicians and ushers. Together they provide more than 100 thousand hours of community service every year – watched by audiences totalling around 55 thousand people.
Funding is provided by the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners, the Brevard Cultural Alliance, The Margaret Heins Foundation and contributions from individuals, corporations and organizations.
‘Showplace’ of the Indian River
The Cocoa Village Players are pre-fixed with the word “historic” for a very good reason: history is embedded into their back story. Their home began life as The Aladdin Theatre on August 18, 1924 – showing silent movies.
Then, when “talkies” appeared, The Aladdin became known as the “showplace” of the Indian River.
As ownership changed through the years, so the theatre featured vaudeville acts, served as a station for the American Red Cross during wartime and then became the State Theatre featuring movies on the “big screen”.
Several owners and several decades later, the building was bought by the City of Cocoa and re-named The Cocoa Village Playhouse. In August 1984, the Brevard Community College district board of Trustees acquired the building for $1 – with the understanding the college would take responsibility of ownership and make the theatre operate in the best interests of the community.
The Trustees immediately established a not-for-profit organization with its own Board of Directors, who were given the responsibility of raising funds to make the Playhouse self supporting. Through donations from individuals, organizations, corporations and grants from foundations as well as the State of Florida, the Playhouse was restored to operational status and began producing community-based musicals in 1989 – featuring local volunteer performers.
National Register of Historic Places
In 1991, the Playhouse was accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places in Tallahassee and the official corporate name became The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse.
As programming grew and became more popular, the Stars of Tomorrow youth program was established in 1992 – beginning with eight young people and it now has more than 264 participants – aged from 7 years old to high school graduation. The program instructs them not only in the performing arts, but also in life management skills as each “Star” is required to maintain a 3.0 grade point average in their classes.
The performer base has now grown to more than 600 volunteers. They rotate throughout the productions each year – with a core group known as the “Gold Star Performers” taking part in consecutive shows each season.
An audience base of 4,000 season patrons support the Playhouse each year and performances are known to sell out to the public before the run of each production is finished. In total, more than 55,000 people come to The Playhouse each year.
Broadway On Brevard
Due to the success and expansion of the programs, a capital campaign was launched to raise $2.5 million dollars for a Technical Support Annex, which was donated by Harrison Vanderslice. The Playhouse is continuing to raise the remaining $485,000 in funds needed for completion.
Known as “Broadway on Brevard,” this team of actors, artists, musicians, technical staff, costume & lighting designers, set builders, office staff, ushers and all the other volunteers provides an awesome pool of expertise.
The Historic Cocoa Village Players are truly an example of one of the highest-quality community theatres in the United States.
FOR MORE INFORMATION LOG ON TO CocoaVillagePlayhouse.com