It's about halfway through the evening's performance of "Jubilee!" and not a single audience member is moving or fidgeting or doing anything but staring, transfixed, at the stage.
Chalk it up to the pyrotechnics and the eerie quiet that follows, or the flashes of light that startle the eyes and the rumbling felt underneath the theater's seats.
Or, chalk it up to the emotional pull of a tragedy that, 100 years later, still resonates with generations of people.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. Among the events planned for the bittersweet commemoration of one of history's greatest disasters will be the rerelease this week of "Titanic," director James Cameron's Oscar-winning tale, this time dressed up in 3-D finery.
However, long before the fictional Jack and Rose stepped onto the gangplank, Las Vegas shared an intimate relationship with the Titanic.
For more than 30 years, the vessel's untimely demise in the Atlantic Ocean has been re-enacted nightly in "Jubilee!" at Bally's. More recently, "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition," now at Luxor, for several years has been educating visitors about the disaster via photographs, creatively designed exhibits and items recovered from the ship's final resting place.
Both "Jubilee!" and the exhibition try, in their own ways, to put a personal face on a historical event that for a century has served as a metaphor for human arrogance and the limits of technology.
RMS Titanic -- the "RMS" stands for "Royal Mail Ship" -- left Southampton, England, for New York City on April 10, 1912. On April 14, just before midnight, the Titanic hit an iceberg a few hundred miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. Of more than 2,220 passengers and crew members on the ship, more than 1,500 died.
That's the historical Titanic. Beyond that, the Titanic has become "almost ingrained in our culture of current events, even though it happened 100 years ago," said Theresa Nelson, spokeswoman for "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition."
The Titanic saga has all the elements of a classic Greek tragedy, Nelson said, from the hubris of man believing humans could build an unsinkable ship to the vast swath of unsuspecting humanity that perished upon it.
The Titanic carried the movers and shakers of its time, from well-known athletes to top industrialists to the richest people in the world, Nelson noted. "And regardless of your class in society, your religion, your race, everyone on the ship met with the same fate on that night."
Also, because the ship's passengers represented 19 nations, "the tragedy wasn't limited to the United States and Great Britain," Nelson said. "It really resonated throughout the world, and because (Titanic operator) White Star Line had a remarkable PR plan behind the launch of it, the world was fascinated by the ship even before it left port."
"Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" features more than 300 objects from the Titanic recovered from the ocean floor. Many are everyday items -- eyeglasses, bowls, toiletry items -- that by dint of their provenance have become secular relics and by dint of their ordinariness effectively forge a connection between a modern-day "us" and a turn-of-the-century "them."
Guests are given cards -- boarding passes -- containing biographical information about actual Titanic passengers and are then encouraged to imagine, as they walk the exhibit, what life on-board would have been like for their surrogate.
"You'd be surprised how many people end up with a card that has something on it that really gets them," said artifact specialist Noveal Hicks. "One lady's boarding pass had the name Kate Phillips on it. I said, 'What's wrong?' She said, 'My name is Kate and my brother is named Phillip.' "
Guests can see a 26-foot-long, 15-ton piece of the ship's hull, look at photos of passengers, view a re-creation of a first-class stateroom and touch an iceberg to see how cold the ocean into which life-jacketed passengers were thrown was, to understand how quickly hypothermia took them.
The exhibition is designed to, in an intimate and personal way, "tell the story of those that lost their lives or whose lives were forever altered because of the sinking of the Titanic," Nelson said.
It's not surprising that such a dramatic event would become fodder for motion pictures. The first cinematic depiction of the tragedy came quickly, in 1912, and starred Dorothy Gibson, a Titanic survivor. Hicks noted that the costume she wore in the film was the dress she wore the night the ship went down.
"When we look at drama, we always ask the question: What is the biggest?" said Francisco Menendez, chairman of the film department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
By that criterion, one of the biggest maritime disasters in history makes the Titanic saga a perfect movie. Enter "Titanic," Cameron's 1997 romance/disaster epic that won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and earned wild box office success.
Celine Dion, who performs regularly at Caesars Palace, sang "My Heart Will Go On," the movie's title song, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time, won the Oscar for Best Original Song and won four Grammy awards, including one for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
In an email, Dion -- who now is on a vocal rest -- called it "a great honor and privilege for me to be a part of this amazing project. James Cameron is a genius, and (composer) James Horner and (lyricist) Will Jennings are wonderful songwriters.
"That magic evening at the Academy Awards is one that I will never forget. Anytime a singer has the opportunity to be associated with a major movie soundtrack, it's exciting, but to have this kind of enormous success is extraordinary, and I feel very, very fortunate to have been a part of it."
What's interesting about Cameron's film, Menendez said, is that the Rose character is the backbone of the story, "including her journey returning as an old woman to the place where they located the Titanic and letting (the necklace) drop in memory of the boy she loved."
At its heart, "it's a woman's journey," Menendez said, and it worked so well that just seeing the trailer for the upcoming rerelease was enough to pique Alex Kalinowski's interest in all things Titanic.
Alex didn't see the film when it originally came out -- he's only 8 and wasn't even born yet -- but, since seeing the trailer, he has read several books about the tragedy and was well-prepared for his recent visit to "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition."
"We came to Las Vegas just to see this," said mom Jean Kalinowski of Brentwood, Calif.
Why is Alex interested in the Titanic? "I like the ship," he said. "It's big."
"The thing that struck my interest or has always fascinated me is, it was such a massive ship and they said it was unsinkable and it sunk," Jean said. "I'm a big genealogist, so I love history and I love learning personal things about people in history. So I look at the (passengers) and I'm just sad."
The sinking of the Titanic was "like the September 11th of their time," she added.
Billy and Deanna Sherry of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., took in the exhibit with daughters Skylar, 12, and Jadyn, 8. The most moving aspect of the exhibit for Deanna was "the human element aspects of it."
Particularly startling was "the randomness of it, really," she added.
"What I found interesting is reading about the people and how a lot of them ended up on the Titanic," Billy Sherry said. "A lot of people were supposed to be on other ships and transferred to the Titanic."
While Cameron used computer-generated imagery to sink his Titanic, "Jubilee!" does it twice nightly via creative stage design and live actors.
The show's Titanic sequence features elaborate sets of a pier-side scene, the ship's grand parlor and the Titanic's engine room, as well as a lifeboat and a replica of the sinking ship itself, all augmented with pyrotechnics and water and fire effects.
But "Jubilee!" isn't the first Las Vegas show to feature the Titanic. In 1964, Donn Arden, creator of "Jubilee!" also created a show called "Hello America" at the Desert Inn that "had a Titanic number in it," recalled Louie Bradfield, retired Jubilee Theater master electrician who helped to oversee the creation of the sets used in "Jubilee!"
The Titanic sequence in "Hello America" was "done very realistically and didn't have water in it and didn't have real fire, but you think they did," Bradfield said, even though the Titanic sequence is "done far much more elaborately here and much more realistically here."
What did he think when he saw that the "Jubilee!" sets would include a scale model of a sinking Titanic and a water-filled engine room? " 'That sounds like fun,' " he answered, smiling. "It's very ambitious."
The sequence is just as ambitious for performers. Diane Palm has been with "Jubilee!" since it opened, first as a dancer and currently as company manager, and has performed several roles in the Titanic segment.
The show, with the Titanic sequence, opened in 1981 and still "follows basically the same story line we did when we opened," she said. "There have been a couple of modifications, and there have been a couple of things trimmed out, but it's essentially the same."
For performers, the number is unique because "you have to play a character," Palm said. "You're not just about the singing and dancing. You are actually a character, whether you're an elegant lady at the party or a porter or a waiter."
Palm never has noticed an audience appearing uncomfortable with the notion of incorporating the Titanic tragedy into a Las Vegas revue.
"I think that's because it's told so well," she said. "It's told very much like a movie or like a Broadway musical, where you have a beginning where you're introduced to the characters, and the ship sets sail and everybody's happy, and then it slowly turns into this disaster and, of course, there's still hope at the end for people who do survive."
For the show's agility in walking that line, credit Arden, Palm said.
"(He) is a genius,' Palm said. "And he deserves the kudos for being such a visionary that he could come up with something that 30 years later is still relevant and still amazing."
In the end, the enduring power of the Titanic stems from its human story.
Nelson recalled a quote from a woman, a second-class passenger on the Titanic, who said the cries of "women and children first" that she heard meant safety for her but, also, "the greatest loss" she'd ever suffer: Having to go on without her husband.
"So when we go through life, it's a reminder of, maybe, the need to stop and remember to say, 'I love you' to our loved ones, because I'm sure all these people, when they boarded the Titanic, were so excited to be part of history on its maiden voyage," Nelson said. "But little did they know their history was to never to make it to its final destination."
For Nelson, the connection that binds the Titanic's long-dead passengers to those living today can be found in another quote, this one by Irish philosopher Jack Foster: "We are all passengers on the Titanic."
"I think that is so true," Nelson said. "Here we are, 100 years later, and whether you're a descendant of a Titanic passenger or not, I think the story is one that resonates with everyone. We are all just kind of one flip of the coin of fate away from facing what these 2,228 people faced 100 years ago."
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.