Titanic: The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Book: Peter Stone

Music & Lyrics: Maury Yeston

Director: Thom Southerland

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Titanic: The Musical first appeared on Broadway in 1997, winning five Tony Awards in the process. Director Thom Southerland’s stripped back production, first seen at the Southwark Playhouse in 2013, was revived to great acclaim in 2016, and is now touring the UK.

While the subject matter may seem unlikely (an event where 1517 people lost their lives), even morbid, composer Yeston has himself claimed that the musical isn’t based on tragedy alone. Instead, it represents the hopes and dreams of all those on board: the 3rd Class passengers, their dreams of immigration to a new life; those in 2nd Class with their aspirations to live life like those in 1st Class; the 1st Class passengers hoping to forever maintain their positions of privilege in the New World. Writer Peter Stone achieves this. There’s yearning, optimism and a finger firmly on the pulse of society (both high and low) in the early years of the 20th Century.

It also neatly catalogues the seemingly endless list of wrong decisions that set the ship on its tragic course, the desire to make history eerily prophetic: ignoring warnings not to push the ship hard; constantly pushing the speed; ignoring almost constant warnings of icebergs from fellow ships on the same journey; the feeling of invincibility over common sense; changing course to save a few hours (to get some publicity) which puts the ship on a collision course with tragedy, the list is too long to chart here. This is a work of infinite quality, wonderfully researched, that manages to stir the heart and soul. These are the stories of the real people who boarded the ship for that fateful journey, this is no lazy dramatization.

Whilst written by Americans, this is a uniquely British story. Stylistically the music too is quintessentially British: heavily influenced by both Elgar and Vaughan Williams it is simply beautiful. The ensemble shine and when singing as one, have the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

In a cast that is uniformly excellent, it seems churlish to single out any member but Matthew McKenna as First Class Steward Henry Etches is an actor of exceptional quality, who is infinitely watchable throughout. That said, this is one of the finest quality casts to tour the UK in many years.

If any criticisms can be levelled at the work it is the sheer number of characters who appear, as each is given their moment, it makes the running time a hefty two hours 40 minutes, that said, this is also laudable as it gives voice and equal weight to every type of passenger and crew. The actors do a fine good job of paying respectful tribute to these real people’s lives, Titanic: The Musical truly has the power to move.

Don’t be put off by the subject matter or puerile previous adaptations of the story on screen, this is a respectful, perfectly judged piece of writing that packs a huge emotional punch.

Runs until 26 June 2018 | Image: Scott Rylander

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

A respectful, perfectly judged piece of writing that packs a huge emotional punch

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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  1. I dont agree ive been going to the theatrefor over 20 years this is the first show ive left early.

  2. Hands down the worst show I have ever seen and I’ve been to a lot. Very disappointing. I hoped the show would have been based (even if loosely) on the film or had some sort of storyline to give the audience a connection with the characters. Everything was terrible including the songs which were sometimes to incoherent that it was difficult to hear the words being sang. I expected Irish music, similar to the film and linking in with the Irish cast members. I also think that this show should have an age restriction given moderate language and a particular scene dealing with suicide. So disappointed in what I hoped would be a fantastic show about a momentous historical event.

  3. Absolute torture from start to finish. I also left early. The singers were very talented but the songs…..they all sounded like a dreary monologue of facts and figures…..three hours of my life I wont get back again.

  4. What a dissapoting show I have never seen such a musical with that i purchased tickets that’s cost me £65 that I will never get back. Nothing really to do with the majestic film that I was brought up on plus my wee sister new more about that titanic as she did it as a school project and she was really dissaponted i did not appreciate at that the focused on sucided that had nothing to with the film and shocking to show in front of kids and there for I will never want to to see this again who ever came up with this musical needs a realty check I didn’t blame the Glasgow public for walking out of a really bad show.

  5. Very disappointing…..still in shock from last night. First musical that I have seen that I have left feeling this way. Not my cup of tea at all. A waste if good money

  6. I have to say I really enjoyed the show. The singing and acting were superb .This was not like the usual musicals (ten a penny) where the songs are catchy and lots of dancing, but perhaps slightly leaning towards the operatic .I loved the way the boat tipped when sinking. My only critism is that the music was way way too loud for this rather small theatre .once or twice I wanted to cover my ears, it did spoil it .Also I find it so rude of the public who start to leave their seats just before the actors take their bows .These artists deserve your applause and appreciation. Do you know how hard these people work!! I do .I have a son in the business and they give you their all!

  7. My daughter and I were there Saturday night we were very disappointed we have been going every year and this show was awfull we feel we paid a lot of money for nothing it was terrible people were leaving before the interval and then a lot didn’t come back after the interval

  8. Titanic is by far the best performance I have seen in years. Well done to everyone involved .

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