The Lowry, Salford; Tuesday 8th May, 2018
Titanic the musical first opened on Broadway six months before James Cameron’s 1997 cinematic production became Hollywood’s first ever billion-dollar hit.
The facts of how an unsinkable ship came to meet such a disastrous end on its maiden voyage have been fully transformed from a lesson in history to a legend of popular culture – mainly thanks to the enormous success and popularity of Cameron’s film and its accompanying song.
As a musical, Titanic attempts to deliver as grand and epic a story-telling experience as the film. The performance chronicles the end-to-end narrative, starting with scenes of ambition and pride as the man who commissioned the ship to be built ponders in awe at the greatness of the engineering achievement. Over the course of two dozen or so songs, the show introduces various characters and portrays the dramatic events before and after the catastrophic collision with an iceberg.
With a cast of 26, the action on stage is busy and sometimes chaotic, individual performances are strong but characters drift in and out of focus a little too quickly and a little too often. Several musical pieces linger for too long on minor characters, ultimately failing to help exploit the true drama of the tale being told. In comparison the key players are well pronounced and compelling: the authoritative captain; the bullying owner who wants to impress; and the nervous but timid crew who portray their unease and discomfort at having to challenge orders.
In contrast to the relatively superfluous stories of romance on board, far more interesting and powerful is the persistent conflict between the upper and lower classes on board the ship, but this is explored in relatively less detail – except for one scene where a commanding officer cruelly likens his paying passengers to the scourge of rats on his ship.
Titanic is an elegantly presented and professionally delivered entertainment spectacle that puts the audience into the steel heart of one of history’s most famous maritime legends. Though it carries plenty of appeal and is clearly produced well, it doesn’t quite set the heart racing and the tears flowing and ultimately fails to emerge from the shadow of its silver screen rival.
|Visual pleasure||Very impressive set, with the imposing presence of huge steel panels riveted together, it became most effective during the boiler room scenes, when the menacing glow of a deep red light produced a terrifying sense of being below deck in amongst the heat and choking fumes of a raging coal furnace. Costumes were also excellent and perfectly set the mood and thinking of the time.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||An excellent live musical performance, singing voices were clear and precise, allowing every word to be heard clearly, which is rare for a musical.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||Regardless of the 25-minute delay in starting the show, Act One was too long, with at least three songs that lingered on otherwise inconsequential personal relationships that were never fundamentally relevant to the overall experience. Aside from taking up time, the sudden drop in pace harmed the otherwise dramatic evolution of the story being told.||2|
|Artistic delivery||Very strong performances from a very large cast, in some ways the size of the performing cast diluted the strength and impact of individual stories but the quality of performance was excellent.||4|
|Overall impact||An impressive technical production with grand visual and musical pleasures, doesn’t seem to fully capture and explore any one aspect of the legend though. It feels as if a famous event has been musical-ised without adding any particularly new emotion or insight. Ultimately it fails to offer anything vastly superior to its more famous big-screen counterpart.||3|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|