Ahead of my trip to Titanic The Musical, I was very much intrigued but not at all looking forward to a macabre evening out to the theatre. However, what I hadn’t anticipated was a powerful and respectful production giving us a glimpse into the lives of the people who set sail on that historic journey back in 1912. The show explores deep themes such as what it means to be legendary, love, class and responsibility without overloading on moral tales and heavy monologues of exposition. The majority of the show is sung through so we get stunning, rousing chorus numbers that really send key points straight to your heart.
We did not attempt to make
With mammoth blocks of stone
A giant pyramid
No, not a pyramid…
Overture/Prologue – Titanic The Musical
The opening number alone has me tearing up, as it’s clear creators Maury Yeston and Peter Stone put every energy into ensuring the audience is right behind the ship’s characters. I have empathy for all of the characters, from third class passengers Kate McGowan and Jim Farrell (played well by Victoria Serra and Chris McGuigan) who are sailing to America in hope of a better life, right through to radio transmitter Harold Bride, who is played by the adorable Oliver Marshall. I have particular affinity for the Captain, played with earnest calm by Philip Rham, and lovable steward Henry Etches (Matthew McKenna). In such a strong, large cast, the two gentleman really stand out and I hope to see them in future touring shows.
The sweet Dudley Rogers and Judith Street as Isidor and Ida Straus are impeccably lovely. Again, it’s the talent of the writing that brings these characters to life and makes their story so poignant and touching. Elderly Ida refuses to leave her husband behind on the ship, so they spend their last living moments dancing together. There is something truly remarkable about this, particularly given these were real people, and this is a real story.
Even the sly J. Bruce Ismay, who urges the Captain to move the Titanic onwards faster, is portrayed empathetically. Simon Green, who plays him, closes the show with a reprise of the opening number with aplomb and we’re all driven to a teary standing ovation. It’s a Les Mis-style weep-fest, and I don’t think it could be done any other way.
The set slightly lets the show down, as it doesn’t quite have the magnificent style and grandeur expected of the Titanic. However, in the second half there is a surprising moment in Thomas Andrews’ solo, Mr. Andrews’ Vision, that shows the set’s hidden talents. Greg Castiglioni, who plays Andrews, delivers a superb performance that really brings a climax to the horrific events of the ship’s sinking. However, it’s a little ‘independent’, rather as if Marius in Les Miserables is fighting on the barricades on his own. I would have liked to see more of the cast members involved in the climactic last moments, to really shock and surprise the audience.
Leading on from this, I’m not a fan of the anti-climactic expositional section right at the very end of the show, before the beautiful end number (which, thankfully, brings me back round). The survivors take turns to share their memories, while telling us how brave the women were for sitting in their lifeboats in the dark while the men stayed behind on the ship… (I’ll keep my opinions on this one to myself, but honestly). It spoils the effect of Andrews’ previous number, and seems a little futile.
Aside from this, though, the production is a fantastic remembering of the brave and inspirational people who boarded the Titanic. It gives us a variety of musical tunes from jazzy Cole Porter style numbers to rousing chorus songs to enjoy, while providing plenty to think about. Godspeed Titanic, what a wonderful show.
Catch Titanic The Musical at Bradford Alhambra until 28th July.
Photograph credited to Scott Rylander