'Titanic' musical production on a lake features a set that actually sinks

A production of the musical “Titanic” is setting sail near Atlanta, but there’s a big twist. For the first time in history, the production is being staged on a lake — and the ship is sinking into the water every night.

Serenbe Playhouse is known for daring production components — in 2016, they flew in a real helicopter for a production of “Miss Saigon” — but the company’s artistic director, Brian Clowdus, says he likes pushing the limits of what people think can be done. With this show, he said he always knew he wanted to actually sink the ship.

“From there,” he said, “we just figured it out!”

The show’s set designer, Adam Koch, says his solution was to build a structure that would look like the blueprint of the ship, and then sink individual elements of that structure. Platforms on cables and pullies can be lowered into the water, a deck splits apart, and a massive 6.5-foot chandelier, custom built for the production, plunges fully into the lake.

The actors in the production acknowledge the water can be daunting, but many of them find it amplifies their performances. Chris Sizemore, who plays the ship’s architect Thomas Andrews, says, often by the end of the show, there’s “not that much acting involved. I mean, you're living it.”

The musical first opened on Broadway in 1997. The original production won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.