Most historic dates and events fade from view after a few years, especially as witnesses age and die. So it’s hard to believe a calamity that occurred more than a century ago can still captivate an audience in an era awash in its own tragedies.

Yet, 112 years after the RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of April 15, interest in the story of the doomed voyage remains high, especially in New York City. Perhaps New York retains its Titanic fascination because it was the ship’s intended final destination. Or maybe it’s because so many famous New Yorkers were onboard—including many who perished that night.

The largest ship afloat at the time, the Titanic, which had been touted as “unsinkable,” was on its maiden voyage en route to NYC from Southampton, England. On the night of April 14, 1912, the ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank by about 2:20 a.m. on April 15, killing 1496 of its 2208 passengers and crew. More might have survived if additional lifeboats had been available or if the lifeboats had been filled to capacity.

Titanic, by David Do, available for free use on Pixabay.

In fact, Titanic fascination spawned another tragedy in June 2023, when a U.S. submersible disappeared while carrying five people to view the Titanic wreck site. An international search and rescue operation spent several days looking for the vehicle, which included tourists who had paid thousands of dollars for the trip, before its wreckage was discovered on the seabed.

In New York City, memorials dedicated to the Titanic and its victims can be found in many places. The Titanic Memorial Lighthouse at the corner of Fulton and Water Street was dedicated in its original location—the roof of the Seamen’s Church Institute—on the first anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. A large plaque just inside the 34th Street entrance of Macy’s honors Isidor Straus, the store’s then-owner, and his wife, Ida, who both went down with the Titanic.

Visitors to New York City continue to seek out tours built around Titanic themes, particularly those given through Dave Gardner, a licensed NYC tour guide regarded as the city’s most knowledgeable Titanic guide. Gardner’s 90-minute walking tours take participants to well-known and obscure memorials while he profiles the lives of some New Yorkers who died and others who survived their voyage on the Titanic.

Gardner said he thinks Titanic tours are still popular because “It’s one of those captivating stories that still has ‘legs.’ There’s a lot of uniqueness to the story of the Titanic.” His tours are filled with international Titanic scholars and aficionados, casual enthusiasts, and even descendants of passengers.

Titanic remembrances exist well beyond stone-and-glass memorials as the disaster has been commemorated in scores of books, museum exhibits, TV shows, documentaries, musicals, and movies. Most famous is the 1997 James Cameron movie, which became the highest-grossing film in history at that time and won 11 Oscars.

Titanic, directed by Lear deBessonet, Produced by Encores!, New York, June 11 – 23, 2024.

The same year that Cameron’s movie hit the screens, the musical Titanic, unrelated to the movie, debuted on Broadway. It won five Tony Awards and ran on Broadway for more than two years before beginning national tours. This summer, Titanic returns to New York with a star-studded production of the musical at the New York City Center. Produced by Encores!, the June 11–23 engagement features a full orchestra and top vocal talents. (And if you’re looking for a different spin, Titanique, a musical parody of the 1997 movie, is presently playing in Manhattan.)

Christine Long Hamilton, who played the role of Madeleine Astor in the Titanic musical in the late 1990s, has thought a lot about why the disaster continues to attract such attention. She points out how the “the millionaires” and “the second- and third-class passengers coming to America to start a new life” all experienced “the same tragedy together.” It made “the social classes seem pointless in the end.”

“I think the story reminds us how fragile life is,” Hamilton said, “and makes us reflect on what’s truly important.”

Lear deBessonet, artistic director of the June revival of the Titanic musical, describes the story as “a perfect crystallization of both the highs of human dreaming and innovation, and tragic reality of our faults and limitations.”

And she believes the 1990s musical about a 1912 event still has a lot to offer to 2024 audiences. “The show resonates deeply because of its compelling and universal human themes—things that allow us to feel big feelings in community,” deBessonet said.

“Titanic remains powerful because questions of fate loom large in all our lives. None of us control when or how we die, and this dramatic historical moment peers into the mystery of that.”


Christina Ray Stanton writes for the NY Daily News and The Saturday Evening Post. See

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by Christina Stanton.

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