Monday, April 22

Titanic the Musical – Grand Theatre, Blackpool

The story of Titanic is a timeless one, one that most people the world over are familiar with. The ship that they called “unsinkable” did just that on its maiden voyage, killing over 1,500 souls on board and sending the world’s most luxurious liner to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean without a trace. But still, even 110 years later, it’s a story that fascinates, horrifies and titillates modern audiences.

Many would think that this performance is a musical adaptation of James Cameron’s 1997 motion picture masterpiece – part of the reason that the story of Titanic has gained legendary status in the modern subconscious – but that would be wrong. Titanic the Musical is a unique retelling of its namesake, without a Jack Dawson or Rose Bukater in sight. And for that, I am thankful. This performance was nuanced, balanced and haunting in equal measure, in which the characters that were introduced (from the proletariats in third class hoping for a better life, to the aristocrats in first class, the crème de la crème of 20th century high society) all had something vital to contribute to the rich tapestry of the story.

Visually, this show was a triumph from start to finish – the set design (created by David Woodhead) was simple yet devastatingly effective, complete with the wrought iron railings and black riveted steel that has somehow become synonymous with the doomed liner. The dual height set remained static for most of the performance, but a very small change to the set at the story’s climax made the audience take an audible gasp. This was a stroke of theatrical brilliance, a perfect device to portray the unfolding tragedy.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

The cast of Titanic the Musical were also stellar – each one allowing the audience to delve deeper and deeper into the story. Particular praise must be given to the three male leads, who each performed a vital role in both the show and the storyline. Martin Allanson as the much lambasted J. Bruce Ismay, the owner of White Star Line who consistently cried out for more speed but who eventually took a seat on one of the few lifeboats when tragedy struck, was villainised in the piece but was played perfectly by Allanson. Captain Edward Smith was played heroically by Graham Bickley, who had a wonderful on-stage dynamic with Ian McLarnon, who characterised the shipbuilder Thomas Andrews with such a haunting sadness that it was impossible to look away from in parts.

One must also give praise to the director, Thom Southerland, who really made the story come to life onstage. Every single element – from costumes and set, to lighting, sound and staging – came together perfectly to create an immersive experience that transported you to a different time and place. A standout scene for me was the finale, whereby the scant survivors were looking in respectful silence at an “in memoriam” list of all 1,503 passengers and crew that were lost in the early hours of 14th April 1912. A stark – if haunting – reminder, not just that this story was real, but of the huge loss of life that was suffered that freezing cold night in the middle of the Atlantic. It really put the tragedy in perspective, in the most poignant yet respectful way.

All in all, this performance was masterful. Perhaps the book and lyrics were a little slow in places, but overall, this show really is unmissable.

Titanic the Musical is playing at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre until Saturday 25th March 2023. https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/

Reviewer: Hannah Wilde

Reviewed: 21st March 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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