Titanic The Musical

This show is poignant, powerful, dramatic and tragically beautiful”.

Still one of the most tragic stories of our time, the fated journey taken by RMS Titanic in 1912 was famously immortalised into a Hollywood block buster starring Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio back in 1997.  By coincidence the musical opened on Broadway the same year as James Cameron’s epic film and has toured the world since.

Sailing into Birmingham as part of its UK and Ireland tour, this show is tragically beautiful, poignant, powerful, and dramatic.  We follow that fated journey from the moment the excited passengers embark the impressive new vessel over to New York.  It’s safe to say we all know how the journey ended, so no spoilers there, however the way the production was able to capture every ounce of despair, panic and tragedy really was stunning.

The score requires a mention right at the start of my review, as it is pretty special.  Under the musical direction of Ben Papworth, the orchestra are front and centre from a sound point of view.  This musical is practically sung through with only a few moments of spoken dialogue, so the music is extremely important throughout and the very talented musicians fill the auditorium with the most beautiful sound.

The cast are superb throughout with special mentions to Adam Filipe as Frederick Barrett, Ian McLarnon as Thomas Andrews, Alastair Hill as Harold Bride and Graham Bickley as Captain Edward Smith who provided some of the most impressive vocal performances of the evening.  A particularly beautiful moment being between Hill and Filipe as they sang ‘The Proposal/The Night Was Alive’, coupled with a heartfelt duet between Valda Aviks as Ida Straus and David Delve as Isidor Straus, an ageing couple who refused to be separated during the evacuation of passengers.  It was a real goosebump moment as they performed ‘Still’ with such emotion.

The staging by David Woodhead was impressive as we stepped aboard the vast ship. There was clever use of the aisles in the auditorium as the performers walked up and down, making us feel as though we were part of the journey. 

The story throws light on the difference between the classes aboard the ship.  The first-class passengers were spoilt, whilst the third-class passengers were forgotten about as they took their place towards the bottom of the ship.  This separation in classes came to realisation after the tragic accident where they were initially locked away unable to escape to safety in order for the first-class passengers to take their spaces on the lifeboats.  The despair and fear were clear to see, and the performers really shone during these scenes.

The ships designer Thomas Andrews (Ian McLarnon) blames himself for the tragedy, as does Captain Edward Smith (Graham Bickley) for ignoring the warnings regarding the icebergs.  The blame was also aimed towards William McMaster Murdoch (Billy Roberts) who had been left in charge by the Captain and J. Bruce Ismay (Martin Allanson) who wanted nothing more than RMS Titanic being known as the fastest ship to sail to New York without any regard for passenger safety. 

There were many dramatic scenes to enjoy throughout the second act, including the demise of Thomas Andrews whose death was very reminiscent of Javert’s suicide from Les Miserables.  It delivered on all levels with the clever use of the ships bridge almost swallowing him. The suicide of William McMaster Murdoch ended with a very loud gunshot (trigger warning).  He was unable to forgive himself for the crash and felt that this was his only option.

The second act really does pack a punch emotionally.  The fear those passengers left aboard must have felt was palpable and I must give credit to the cast who carried off these scenes with such feeling.  The fact this is a true story sends shivers down my spine. 

There was a moment of reflection when a large list of the 1503 people who perished at the hands of Titanic was lowered onto the stage.  If I wasn’t feeling emotional already, well this moment certainly made me stop and think. 

This show is poignant, powerful, dramatic and tragically beautiful.  The only reason I’m not giving 5 stars was due to a few little issues with the sound on the evening.  Some of the spoken dialogue was lost slightly due to the volume of the orchestra during these moments.  

This production is certainly no sinking ship though with such an amazing cast and I would recommend a visit before it sets sail onto its next location.

Titanic The Musical is playing at the Birmingham Hippodrome until the Saturday 22nd April 2023.  Tickets available here: Titanic the Musical – Birmingham Hippodrome

Full tour details can be found here: Titanic (titanicthemusical.co.uk)

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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