An attentively crafted performance of the Tony-winning classic!
This week, Titanic: The Musical kicked off its national tour, celebrating its tenth anniversary of its UK tour, and just over 25 years since its initial run on Broadway. The Edge were gleefully invited along to see a performance of the show, and here’s how it went!
Being completely honest, my expectations for Titanic: The Musical – yes, that is indeed the real name of the musical – weren’t amazingly high. While I knew that it wasn’t an adaptation of the 90s (through gritted teeth) film classic, which did help, I was still worried this populist musical was going to either a bit too drab and po-faced — or, worse, be a crass dumbing down and trivialisation of the subject matter, à la Diana The Musical. I read the press packet, I somewhat knew of Stone and Yeston’s other works but otherwise I went in blind.
With any adaptation, especially one such as an esteemed Tony winner as Titanic, you have to divorce the source material from the performance. So, let’s talk performance first: in brief, absolutely brilliant. It very much lived up to the lofty claims of portraying the hopes and dreams of those from all walks of life aboard the Titanic. As a company they worked fantastically together, and you could feel a real chemistry and synchronicity between the cast. It radiated through every number. Especially of note was Bree Smith’s fantastic realising of Alice Beane, an inherently relatable class climber with ambitions of making her way to the upper deck – née crust – of society. Joseph Peacock’s spritely bellboy, subservient until the bitter end, also never missed.
The staging was for the most part rather static, save for a single staircase that could be picked up and moved around the scene – this was rather effortlessly worked into the choreography. And without giving too much away, within the second act was a significant reveal that made me reappraise the initially simplistic, static, two floor design – while I think some may suggest that that choice could have featured more within the show, I think its reveal was perfectly timed and had a tremendous impact on the audience. It’s pretty surreal to hear two thousand people slightly gasp. Also of note was the rather frequent bursting of the audience, used for more poignant effect in “To The Lifeboats”.
The book of the play was at times a little hamfisted in the way American writing about British and Irish life can be. Jokes about American brands such as Macy’s flew over the heads of most of the audience. The show as a whole definitely wasn’t marred by the occasionally cringeworthy one-liner. The pacing was quite predictable – it follows that the iceberg would strike just before the interval – but reinventing the wheel definitely isn’t always necessary.
What the story succeeded at most was capturing an authentic slice of life of 1912, Titanic aside – and this was something brilliantly realised by the company. Especially as its near its climax, it does a phenomenal job of realising both the true extent of the tragedy. The lyrics are littered with dramatic irony, foreshadowing the unfortunate fate of the singers. It gave character and life to people commonly reduced to a statistic, or a name on a plaque.
Those who know a bit more about the Titanic itself – such as someone born and raised in Titanicland such as yours truly – can also appreciate the clear amount of time and research put into ensuring a high level of historical accuracy. Also up there was the attention to detail with costuming; from colour coordination between the couples, to the increasingly bright clothing of the upper classes – until, of course, they are all forced to wear the same beige ‘life preservers’.
But historical accuracy is, to me anyway, meaningless if it’s boring. Titanic was anything but! It was thoroughly engaging from start to finish and surprisingly moving – it almost entirely retained its jam-packed, sold out crowd from both acts for a reason. I’m not in a hurry to see it again – but it’s not that kind of musical. It is, however, absolutely worth seeing. If you can still grab tickets, I’d have to recommend it.
Titanic The Musical will be at the Mayflower Theatre until Saturday 15th April. You can watch the trailer here, via Mayflower Theatre: