Pros: The gravity of the events is presented without any rhetoric, but it’s deeply moving all the same.
Cons: Some of the voices were excessively amplified.
Most of us know the story of the Titanic by heart, and in this piece of musical theatre the plot doesn’t present many surprises. On the 10 April 1912, the ocean liner Titanic left Southampton for her maiden voyage towards New York, with 2,224 people on board between passengers and crew. Four days later, mainly due to the inconsiderate speed, the ship collided with an iceberg, splitting in two and sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic in less than three hours. 1,517 people perished in what remains one of the deadliest maritime disasters in peace times.
Events were dramatically intense as the plot unfolded at Charing Cross Theatre, presenting the broken dreams of different characters from all walks of life and social classes. All travelling in the same towering but confined conveyance were: the wealthy Strauses (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street); rich wannabes the Beanes (Peter Prentice and Claire Machin); the humble but hopeful Jim Farrell (Shane McDaid) and Kate McGowan (Victoria Serra); and also the class-defying but loved-up couple of journalist Charles Clarke (Douglas Hansell) and Lady Caroline Neville (Helena Blackman). Composer and writer Maury Yeston has wisely avoided all rhetoric argument and instead concentrated on the actual stories. The facts spoke for themselves, giving us, the audience, a chance to identify with the protagonists – all carrying real life names – and feel their despair.
The layout of the long and narrow auditorium at the Charing Cross Theatre helped a great deal to immerse us in the narrative. The two lateral balconies painted grey and golden, with dark red upholstery and golden handrails, recalled the bridge of a ship; members of the cast walked along the aisles as part of the performance.
David Woodhead’s set is simple but effective, reproducing the black flank of the Titanic with its white railings. The occasional use of trapdoors and lifting of platforms made the most of a limited space, and the cast brought different props and pieces of furniture on and off stage, according to the change of context.
Behind the plain backdrop hid the band in charge of the excellent live score. A violin, a viola, a cello, a bass, keys and some percussions were all that was needed to deliver some sublime songs like ‘No Moon’ and ‘Godspeed Titanic’. The quality of the singing was impressive. Victoria Serra’s vocal range could be heard above the twenty-strong company and Ismay’s (David Bardsley) clear voice resented the over-amplification of his microphone, eventually shifting from powerful to painful. It is definitely the musical element that took centre stage rather than the choreography, which was limited to a few ensemble numbers and some small-group inserts. Nonetheless, choreographer Cressida Carré has taken every care to make it look appropriately uplifting in a show that had me tearful on more than one occasion.
Titanic is a relatively young musical which is certainly bound to become a classic within the period genre, to the enjoyment of many generations to come. If you only go to see one musical this summer, make this the one, but don’t forget the tissues!
Director: Thom Southerland
Composer and Lyricist: Maury Yeston
Writer: Peter Stone
Musical Director: Joanna Chichonska
Choreographer: Cressida Carré
Producer: Danielle Tarento, Steven M. Levy, Sean Sweeney and Vaughan Williams
Booking Until: 6 August 2016
Box Office: 08444 930 650
Booking Link: http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Titanic-tickets/artist/844579?list_view=1