Titanic The Musical
In the final hours of 14th April 1912 the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, collided with an iceberg and ‘the unsinkable ship’ slowly sank. It was one of the most tragic disasters of the 20th Century. 1517 men, women and children lost their lives.
Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, Titanic The Musical is a stunning and stirring production focusing on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of her passengers who each boarded with stories and personal ambitions of their own. All innocently unaware of the fate awaiting them, the Third Class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the Second Class imagine they too can join the lifestyles of the rich and famous, whilst the millionaire Barons of the First Class anticipate legacies lasting forever.
With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Peter Stone (Woman of the Year and 1776), the pair have collectively won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, an Olivier Award and three Tony awards. The original Broadway production of Titanic The Musical won five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. This stunning production celebrates the 10th anniversary of its London premiere where it won sweeping critical acclaim across the board.
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Titanic The Musical ON TOUR
Our review on Titanic The Musical
Titanic The Musical - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 4th July 2023 by Karen Ryder
TITANIC THE MUSICAL HANDLES THE TRAGEDY WITH CLASS, DIGNITY AND HUMANITY
It is fair to say that musicals based on historical events carry an additional, sometimes unspoken burden to prove themselves. Not only must they jump through all the usual hoops to stand a chance of survival, let alone longevity, but they must do so with a weighty sense of accountability, tact, and decorum. And with recent events in the news surrounding The Titanic, it feels a timely sensitive topic. Five-time Tony Award winning Titanic The Musical handles this responsibility with class, dignity and humanity. It chooses to base the characters on real people who were onboard, telling their story, their hopes, their dreams, and allowing them to live on in the hearts of everyone who watches the show. This gives added poignancy and impact to the tragic ending we all know is coming and gives the story authenticity.
The Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage on 10th April 1912 with a dream of becoming a legendary cruise ship, a dream that was so big and carried so much interest that it became fulfilled in the most sad and ironic manner. As Captains, designers and investors (played by Martin Allanson, Graham Bickley, Ian McLaren, Billy Roberts) boast and congratulate themselves on the success that is about to bestowed upon them as the ship prepares to launch, we are introduced to its passengers, each with their own dreams just waiting to be followed. Third class passengers dream of a better life in America, second class reveal a mixture of contentment and longing for a taste of the first-class passengers, who seemingly don’t have a care in the world. But there are cross overs too such as the first-class passenger who is running away from her life to be free to marry beneath her class. The crew are brought to life from the bellboys to the Communications Officer and we are pulled right into the beating heart of the dockside in Southampton as cast members swiftly move in and out of the audience from the stage, loading the ship with a variety of foods. It is busy, it is bustling, it is ironically buoyant.
The first half of the show moves at a calm and steady pace, feeding us various facts and figures about The Titanic, including its capacity and prestigious unsinkable features. Alongside this we get to know a little more about the characters, from the self-indulgent investor to the out of wedlock pregnant third-class passenger Kate who manages to find herself a new husband pretty sharpish. There is no big plot reveal, we all know what is going to happen, and the tension is allowed to build very slowly as warning after warning is ignored regarding the looming iceberg. The purpose of this first half seems to be to engage us with the characters, remind us that these were real people, so when the inevitable happens, we are invested. This is not an easy thing to do as we all know the outcome long before we even arrived at the theatre, so the production has to hook us in another way. Already knowing the outcome offers a different slant on conversations spoken in innocence, as they take on a desolating parallel, such as when The Captain states he is retiring so this will be his last ever voyage. We know something he doesn’t know, we already know his fate, so everything that is said opens itself up for a deeper meaning. It is an unusual position to be in as an audience member, and so much of the first act is simply allowing us into the private lives of characters whose outcome we already know. It means there is no huge shocking plot development, which is both a blessing and a curse as it feels strange, like you are just waiting for the inevitable, but on the other hand, it would feel stranger if liberties were taken with the truth of the story for the sake of a traditional first act plot arc. Just as the ship hits the iceberg, we are plunged into darkness and act one closes.
Act two for me is the beating heartbeat of the show where we begin to realise the human connections we have made with the characters in the first act. We have to watch helpless, knowing how this will play out, that this was real, and face the stark realities and decisions that had to be made. It was wrenching to witness the different responses to the tragedy as it unfolded, from anger, to blame, panic, selfishness, selflessness, love, helpless hope, resignment, and suicide. Each person onboard was facing the same situation but each had their own response to it. The audible gasp from the audience as we learned of the stoic and brave loyalty of the bellboys, who turned out to be no older than 15, the elderly Ida Straus who refused to take her seat on the lifeboat because she didn’t want to live without her husband, the contrast to them giving their life jackets away to give two young maids hope of survival against the entitled first class who refused to give a seat to another human being so there was room for their luggage. As those who were granted a space on a lifeboat were separated from their loved ones with their chance to live, they joined us in the audience, putting a physical distance between themselves and their last goodbyes. The beautifully haunting “We’ll Meet Tomorrow” rung throughout the theatre, and the brutal truth hit hard. This, for me, was the perfect paradoxical moment of the show, where its purpose of human connection made sense, but the tragedy of the real-life facts made no sense, as pointless death never does. The sinking of the ship was tasteful, powerful, and avoided a big smoke and mirrors effect which would possibly have seemed tactless for the sake of impact. Instead, it was delicately stylised and for me, it was pitched just right.
The vocal power of this company is moving, and with more score than book, it cleverly accommodates nuances such as traditional Irish sounds and morse code rhythms. There is a clear difference in the melodies for each of the passenger classes, and a touching reprise to honour the legacy of the souls lost at sea. Graham Bickley as Captain Edward Smith commands with power and pompousness. But he makes someone who is never really represented favourably for obvious reasons, someone flawed yes, but someone real. He was also someone’s husband, son, friend and he made questionable choices but he made them out of impossible options. Valda Aviks and David Delve as Ida and Isidor Straus broke my heart. They represented love. True love. The kind you would rather die for than face the world without. They both played this with a gentle and subtle nature that had the audience gasping for air at their personal sacrifice and strength. Matthew McDonald as Charles Clarke was the first to make me cry with his gut-wrenching solo in “We’ll Meet Tomorrow.” The pain of his goodbye was etched in every fibre of his being and he made me feel it too. Bree Smith as Alice Beane brought a breath of fresh air and humour to a tragic story, with her preference for societal gossip, and her ambitions to quite literally be a cut above. Her constant attempts to break into the first-class areas and ‘be one of them’ was something we have all tried on our own level at some point, whether it be calmly trying to cut a line in a nightclub, mosey on up to the VIP area at the airport, or just dreaming of something more.
I didn’t know what to expect with Titanic The Musical. I obviously knew the true life events of what happened, but I didn’t know the approach that a musical would take. Would it try and use modern technology to simulate the ship sinking? Would we see the iceberg? Would it mix fictional with fact like the blockbuster movie? It was less chaotic than I was expecting, less dramatic, and more humanistic. Audience members who I spoke to who had a historical interest were impressed by the accuracy and inclusion of so many facts, and judging by the standing ovation at the end, others were just impressed full stop. As the survivors bring the show to a close, they do so against a Titanic memorial wall baring the names of the 1517 men, women and children whose lives were lost at seat upon the legendary ‘unsinkable ship.’ A tasteful and tearful tribute to the tragic tale of The Titanic.
WE SCORE TITANIC THE MUSICAL...
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