Like James Cameron's Titanic movie, Peter Stone and Maury Yeston's Titanic the Musical relies on artificial drama—until the legendarily doomed ship hits that iceberg (the real star of the show). But the Broadway musical, which runs through Sept. 3 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre, is a far more durable telling of the 1912 tale. Larry Raben directs a sprawling cast of 37, all of them in authentic period costumes and accompanied in song by a 26-piece orchestra. This is a titanic production, and though the ship and its sinking are conveyed using screen projections and modest set pieces, you will feel as if you are on board. That in itself may be the most significant accomplishment of this show, which originally won the Tony for Best Musical.
The cast is so large that making a personal connection with any of the characters is dicey, but definite standouts include Bets Malone as a lovable social climber, Robert J. Townsend as the principled ship builder, Eric Michael Parker as the Titanic's radio operator, and Norman Large as stalwart Captain E.J. Smith. No Jack? No Rose? No problem. Yeston's Act 1 songs are primarily expository but gain poignancy in Act 2, when for most aboard all is lost.
Titanic The Musical runs through Sept. 3 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $10-$55. moonlightstage.com
You know you're in for a peculiar evening when the lights go up and you see on stage a cap with the word "Feces" printed on it. It's just one of many caps worn by the two actors, Anthony Methvin and Tom Zohar, in Backyard Renaissance's production of the 2005 Gutenberg! The Musical! The idea, stretched about as far as it can go, is that Doug (Methvin) and Bud (Zohar) are rehearsing a musical they've written about Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. In so doing, they prance around and sing songs while donning caps identifying what characters they're portraying, from Gutenberg himself to his fictitious love interest, Helvetica, to a villainous monk—and many more. A few of the original tunes are clever and this pair tries awfully hard, but the upshot is a tiring exercise in neo-Vaudeville.
Gutenberg! The Musical! runs through Sept. 4 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $14. backyardrenaissance.com
Duck Hunter Shoots Angel: A tabloid journalist experiences a catharsis while investigating two Alabama hunters who accidentally shoot an angel. Written by Mitch Albom, it opens Sept. 2 at Lamplighter’s Community Theatre in La Mesa.
Little Mary Sunshine: Rick Besoyan’s classic parody of old-fashioned operettas and musicals features a variety of characters spoofing musical theatre legends. Presented by the Pickwick Players, it opens Sept. 2 at Off Broadway Live in Santee. pickwickplayers.net
Seussical the Musical: A family-friendly musical where all of the characters of Dr. Seuss share the stage at the same time. Directed by Desha Crownover, it opens Sept. 2 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Sylvia: A couple of empty nesters are forced to confront underlying issues in their relationship after adopting a dog in A.R. Gurney’s comedic romp. Directed by Samuel Young, it opens Sept. 2 at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Tiger Style!: A new comedy about two overachieving siblings who set out to visit China in hopes of becoming better adults. Written by Mike Lew, it opens Sept. 6 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
The Cocktail Hour: An affluent New England family’s reunion is hilariously shaken up when one of the sons reveals he’s written a script that hits a little too close to home. Directed by Rosina Reynolds, it opens Sept. 7 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org