Titanic the musical has made a triumphant return to the West End, taking up residence at the Charing Cross Theatre. A beautiful venue seating up to 265, you feel close to the action wherever you’re seated, which is helped by the fact the actors use the aisle space around the theatre throughout the show.
I’ve seen an amateur production of the show before which I absolutely loved, and while I expected a professional production to wow me even more it honestly went above and beyond anything I expected.
Let me start by saying Titanic has one of the most stunning scores of any musical I have seen. A bold statement, considering how often I’m at the theatre, but this music really is phenomenal. Entirely sung with only a few moments of spoken dialogue, it’s a rich tapestry of work which builds to create the extremes of emotion necessary when telling such a tale.
This cast do that music justice. I will talk about some individuals and songs in more depth, but overall the sound the cast made was excellent. It’s a real ensemble show, with the stories of many characters woven together, and as such takes a cast which is strong in its entirety as well as having those key soloists. ‘There She Is’ showcased this well, as did the strong finale ‘In Every Age/Godspeed, Titanic’.
The stage is very simple, featuring only a raised level with steps leading up to it – the steps could be detached and moved around – and a trapdoor at the front of the stage. In terms of props, there were tables, desks and chairs, and luggage, which quickly transitioned us between areas of the ship.
The costumes, too, effectively built up the hierarchy of those on stage. Featuring crew of all levels, as well as first, second and third class passengers, it was immediately clear to audiences exactly who we were watching at any point, and never confusing when it came to figuring out which character was which. Many of the cast assumed multiple roles, and this was effectively done.
I’m going to focus on a few personal favourites now, as otherwise I could write at length about every single character and bore any reader.
If I was pushed to choose an overall favourite it would be Andrews, the builder of the ship, played by Sion Lloyd. His voice was captivating, and he played the character incredibly well, especially throughout the second half. A standout moment of Act Two was ‘The Blame’, in which Andrews was joined by Ismay (David Bardsley) and Captain Smith (Philip Rham). The standard of their rendition of this song was just incredible, and the three men build the tension and anger so well.
Alice Beane was played superbly by Claire Machin, providing many of the comedy moments of the show. I loved every aspect of this character, and she was supported well by her poor husband Edgar (Peter Prentice).
Isidor and Ida Straus (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) need to accept the blame for a large proportion of my tears during Act Two (I have to admit I was a sobbing wreck through a lot of the second half). This couple were cast to perfection, and I was utterly swept along in their life and story. ‘Still’ absolutely broke my heart while at the same time reminding us all of the hope that love and companionship can bring, and Rogers and Street performed this beautifully.
Titanic is a musical which feels like it’s about to end a few times over. It could end at any point after each of the last four or five songs, although I have to admit I’d miss anything that was cut out! We discussed the ending a lot of the way home from the show, torn between where we wished it had ended. Personally, I love the final scene. I won’t explain why in case you’ve not yet seen it, but for me it emphasises the tragedy of the whole story perfectly.
There was a standing ovation to round off the show, and it was completely deserved. Fantastic work by all the cast and crew, and a show I will be urging many other people to go and see.