So, the boat sinks. Sorry about the upfront spoiler but let’s be honest, the tale of Titanic’s ill-fate is one that everyone knows as it’s perhaps one of the most infamous marine tragedies in history. It’s therefore unsurprising that many have created stories of those last few, fateful days on board the luxury liner- most notable being James Cameron’s blockbuster hit with a certain Kate and Leo.
But around the same time, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone created a spectacular musical that opened on Broadway to rapturous critical acclaim. After setting sail for London in 2013, Titanic has re-surfaced with director Thom Southerland reviving the chamber version in the intimate setting of the Charing Cross Theatre – and without a steamed car or Celine Dion melody insight.
Yeston and Stone bring to life the wonderful stories of real life passengers and crew members spanning across the classes, which are beautifully interwoven and explore characters both above and below deck. Many of the recognisable faces are aboard David Woodhead’s inspired set (though it be but little, it is fierce), including ship creator Thomas Andrews (Siôn Lloyd), baddie Bruce Ismay (David Bardley), the Strauss’ (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) and Mr Guggenheim. There are also the three Kate’s in steerage (Scarlett Courtney, Jessica Paul, Victoria Serra) and second class passengers Alice and Edgar Beane (Claire Machin and Peter Prentice).
Yeston and Stone focus on the gigantic symbolism the ship represented, of futures to be had and dreams to be made. Third class passenger Kate from Ireland dreams of better life as a Ladies Maid in America, Lady Caroline (Helena Blackman) and Charles (Douglas Hansell) have pushed class aside to run away and marry, and Alice Beane is overjoyed to be rubbing shoulders with the ships finest and wealthiest. There is a romance in every class and the endearing love story of the Strauss’ simply touches your heart, and as they duet ‘Still’ as the ship goes down, it’s hard not to feel your eyes well up.
The passengers arrive with giddy excitement unaware of their doomed fate and crew members stand proud in light of their part in making this a ‘ship of dreams’. We waltz through the first half with stunning melodies and elegant harmonies delivered by this exceptional ensemble cast. Despite knowing the tragedy, tension mounts to the roaring crescendo of the impacting iceberg. There is an air of Sondheim in many of the songs, offering both light and darkness to the tone ranging through heartfelt ballads to dramatic numbers.
The show has attracted a wealth of musical talent that propels this production into a true masterpiece. Other cast members include Matthew Crowe, Niall Sheeny and Phillip Rham as Captain Smith, but each and every one deliver an outstanding performance that moves and charms. Equally Cressida Carré’s lively routines fill the stage, especially during “Doing the Latest Rag” with feather brimmed hats, chiffon embellished dresses and Edwardian dinner jackets of Woodhead’s delicious costumes.
Southerland is on a winning streak after Grey Gardens and Grand Hotel and it’s fair to say he has created a musical of titanic proportions. Now Artistic Director of the Charing Cross Theatre, there is no doubt we can expect great things from him and I am eagerly anticipating his next triumph. Rush now, before it sinks.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Rylander)