Musical theatre based on a disaster of epic proportions would not initially seem to be a match made in heaven. With such a tragic well-known storyline, ‘Titanic the Musical’ is a brave undertaking. However, having won five Tony Awards, Titanic the Musical is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary of the London Premiere. With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and directed by Thom Southerland the musical focuses on the individual passengers and their own personal stories on board this renowned Ship that set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in April 1912.
Not to be confused with the cinema version, this is certainly a musical of two halves. The first and second act are polar opposites in how the story unravels. The first act demonstrates the frenzy and excitement of all those boarding this magnificent engineering masterpiece that had been described as a ‘floating metropolis’ by many. It depicts the hopes and dreams of all the different classes. Immediately we are aware that this act highlights the different entitlements that all the various classes have on board. The story lures the audience in with stories of friendships, and the hope of a new world in America that enables the audience to connect with individuals from the very beginning. The second act eludes further to the class system and of course when disaster strikes on board the class system is never more apparent. The way first class passengers were treated compared to others was highlighted with clarity here.
With so many stand out, talented actors it is incredibly challenging to select a few and is therefore essential to acknowledge the fabulous score and the entire ensembles performance. Bree Smith who played the excitable Alice Beane was outstanding. She portrayed her desperation consistently in her desire to mix with the first-class passengers. Dancing, singing and stage presence in abundance, she delivered throughout.
Graham Bickley was excellent in his part of playing ‘Captain Edward Smith’ and executed his constant dilemma of pleasing the passengers with ensuring he was doing his job yet also being on a personal journey, as this was to be his last sail before he retired.
The relationship between two of the older passengers, Iva and Isador Strauss (Valda Aviks and David Delve) onboard was touching to watch. The final scene following their decision to stay together, dancing after sipping champagne, as the ship was sinking added an eerie calmness to the disaster around them.
Set and costume designer David Woodhead must be applauded on many levels. The set was simple yet effective as throughout the performance the set easily became various parts of the ship. The sinking of the Titanic was incredible to watch from the audience as the set gave the impression of the ship tilting.
Titanic the Musical was simply outstanding. For such a tragic story it demonstrates the adaptability of musical theatre. Tastefully executed, it did not falter on any aspect. This is undoubtedly up there with the best of theatre. It had a hold on the audience from the opening number, to the end, when a simple board on stage was displayed with all the names of the passengers on. So deserving of its lengthy standing ovation and in many ways a wonderful tribute to all those who set sail on the Titanic back in April 1912.
Titanic the Musical is on at The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent until 29th April and tickets are available from www.atgtickets.com
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 24th April 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★