Music and Lyrics: Maury Yeston
Writer: Peter Stone
Director: Thom Southerland
Musical Director: Mark Aspinall
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
The sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 is one of the most tragic maritime events on record, where sadly 1517 souls were lost. Many will know and have watched James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar-winning film, Titanic, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The same year as the blockbuster film, Maury Yeston’s Titanic – The Musical, opened on Broadway, winning numerous awards including a Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical, based on Peter Stone’s book, isn’t a factual narrative about what exactly happened to the “unsinkable ship”, instead, there is a specific focus on the characters on board.
The narrative in the first act follows the characters’ dreams, hopes and aspirations, including those who are planning to make a life in the New World, such as The Three Kates as in the song Lady’s Maid (Emma Harrold, Devon-Elise Johnson and Victoria Serra). There are those who are planning to propose to their loved ones, as sung by Frederick Barrett (Niall Sheehy) in The Proposal/The Night Was Alive, while Lady Caroline Neville (Claire Marlowe) and her fiancé Charles Clark (Stephen Webb) are eloping to America, sharing their love in I Give You My Hand.
As representatives of the class system on board, the characters could not be any more different. The Third Class passengers are seeking a better life in America while the Second Class passengers such as Alice Beane (Clare Machin) whose husband has done well with his business, were able to treat themselves a trip of a lifetime. Alice is a social climber and aspires to be among the First Class, the movers and shakers, the billionaires such as the Straus’s (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street). Also not to forget Captain Edward Smith (Philip Rham), J. Bruce Ismay (Simon Green), Thomas Andrews (Greg Castiglioni) and William McMaster Murdoch (Kieran Brown) who all open their minds to their thoughts and feelings about the ship and passage itself. They are involved in the crucial decision making as reflected too late in The Blame.
Titanic- The Musical, accompanied by Yeston’s beautiful score, is written as a tribute to those who have lost their lives as well as to those who have survived. It is a celebration of the human spirit and the imagination beyond experience on the “ship of dreams”. The score includes the memorable Goodspeed Titanic and the poignant The Foundering which mourns and remembers those lost at sea. Thoughts and expressions are sung in varied musical numbers which are sensitively constructed for the passengers and circumstances, from the optimism and normalcy during the first act through the second act which is fast moving and poignant, predominantly concerning the Titanic’s fateful final hours.
David Woodhead’s stunning staging compliments this production, with its steel hull, its railings and stairways and ropes certainly giving the ambient feeling of being on a ship. The set coordinates well with Howard Hudson’s lighting and Andrew Johnson’s soundscapes, while the staging space is imaginatively used by the cast under the moving direction by Thom Southerland and musically by Mark Aspinall and the live orchestra.
The cast is formed of performers who have been successful in London West End’s theatre, the Southwark Playhouse or the Charing Cross Theatre productions of Titanic – The Musical. This stellar cast gives first class portrayals of the characters and together with the ensemble share a wonderful chemistry in telling this unique experience.
On the night of this review, the production was received well by the audience and credit must go to the cast and also the creative team. Titanic – The Musical offers a window of opportunity for the passengers onboard to dream and aspire to something more, although fated and unknown at the time, how this journey would change their lives forever.
Touring nationwide | Image: Scott Rylander