Titanic the Musical at Nottingham Theatre Royal
Unlike James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, the musical created by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone – which premiered six months before the film – features stories from all kinds of passengers, interweaving until they all unite on that final fateful night.
This UK tour, directed by Thom Southerland, celebrates the 10th anniversary of its London premiere and the Icarus-esque tale remains as poignant as ever.
From the very start the 26 strong cast bring the energy needed for such a performance. The bustling activity of the opening number, and looks of wonder could have you convinced you’re stood on Southampton’s dockyard admiring the ship as thousands board.
A story about so many people in a unified experience would not work without a stunning cast, and this one is impeccable. There’s no downtime as the group rapidly switches between their primary roles and other characters, rotating between taking centre stage and flawlessly fading into the background when needed.
While the performance is tinged with sadness from knowing the inevitable ending – not helped by remarks about making headlines and being remembered – there’s plenty of joy to be found; just pay attention to the background characters for a smile The brilliant writing connects the audience to such a vast array of characters in such a short time.
Martin Allanson compels and shocks as Mr Ismay, the egotistical director of the White Star Line, determined to push his brand new ship to break ocean going speed records no matter the cost.
David Delve and Valda Aviks play Mr and Mrs Strauss, the refined couple who can’t bear to leave each other’s side, even after 40 years of marriage. Bree Smith is wonderful as Alice, a young woman desperate to rub shoulders with the upper class, and James Darch is strong as her husband Edgar who brings her back to reality. I love the trio of spunky Irish Kates, all determined to make it to America for a better life, and perhaps find someone to love. These stories, and others, linger long after the curtain falls.
Of course, the performance would not be as impactful without Yeston’s glorious score, performed beautifully by the band, directed by Ben Papworth. The music soars to emulate the grandeur of the ship and generates the tension and fear of the second act, helped by the stunning vocals of the ensemble. All voices from bass to sopranos blend seamlessly enough to create goosebumps and set the mood whether that’s the excitement of the launch, or the frantic panic of the sinking, while also allowing the individual voices and stories to shine through layers of melodies.
David Woodhead’s set is beautiful in its simplicity; featuring two-tiered steel sheets as though you’re inside the ship, and a ladder largely being the only prop on stage, with Howard Hudson’s lighting doing some heavy lifting in scene changes, taking us from the first-class saloon to the furnace in the blink of an eye. The choreography also transforms the scenes, creating lifeboats out of a flat stage.
Be prepared for every aspect of this stirring show to entrance you, much like the great ship herself might have done on its thrilling yet doomed maiden voyage .
Titanic the Musical is performing at Nottingham Theatre Royal until 20th May 2023. Don’t miss your chance to see it, and find tickets here: https://titanicthemusical.co.uk/tour.php