Jul 28, 2014
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Port Native Happily Boards a Sinking Ship

Geoff Karnish, a 2004 Port Washington High School graduate, performs as First Officer William Murdoch during the Broadway production of "Titanic." The show is coming to Milwaukee.

Port Native Happily Boards a Sinking Ship Port Native Happily Boards a Sinking Ship Port Native Happily Boards a Sinking Ship

A childhood dream has a Port Washington native in the spotlight — literally — after he landed a role in the Broadway production of " Titanic: The Musical."

"I just feel so lucky to be a part of it," said Geoff Karnish, a 2004 Port Washington High School graduate. "This is what I’ve been working on for a long time … I want to keep getting more prestigious tours and doing a show in New York."

The show plays Friday and Saturday at the Milwaukee Theatre.

Karnish plays First Officer William Murdoch, the man best known for being in charge of the ship — and making decisions that actually caused more damage to the ship, fueling the tragedy, Karnish said.

"My character basically takes on the blame ... himself," Karnish said. "There's so many things that went wrong with Titanic — you can't pinpoint one thing as wrong — but my character definitely takes on the blame." Murdoch died when the ship sank.

Though this is Karnish's first Broadway production, it isn't his first time performing on a professional stage.

Karnish regularly participated in Port Summer Theatre, performed at Memories Ballroom and with the Cedarburg Players, as well as in school plays.

"I kind of got my start at a young age," Karnish said. "My family took me to see a Broardway-style show that was coming through Chicago — and I was kind of mesmerized — I decided that was the coolest thing in the world."

Karnish graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a major in musical theatre and spent the next three years performing in Wisconsin theatres: The Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson; Northern Lights Playhouse in Minocqua; and The Broadway Dinner Theatre in Wisconsin Dells.

After building his resume in Wisconsin, Karnish decided it was time to step it up in New York. He auditioned for Titanic in spring and landed the part. Though he has dreams of more Broadway roles, he also hopes to expand his career path.

"It's always been my dream, and after ... I've realized how hard it is … it is still my dream — but I’d also like to get into more of the directing side of things," he said.

"Titanic: The Musical" will show at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday night at the  Milwaukee Theatre. Tickets cost  $35 a person, and are on sale now. They can also be purchased via ticketmaster.com.

"I think people are surprised … it's not a musical adaptation of the movie," Karnish said, adding that the Broadway musical came out before the movie, and focuses more on the historical aspects — with different characters that help to tell the story from all social classes.

"You can see how different everyone is in the beginning," he said, "but then after the iceberg hits everyone is just in the same boat — no pun intended." 

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