I remember going to the cinema to watch the movie ‘Titanic’. James Cameron’s Hollywood blockbuster filmed in 1997 when I was 14 years old. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane and Kathy Bates. At the time it grossed $2.187 billion at the box office and won 11 Oscars the following year. The movie based on a real-life tragedy saw Titanic nicknamed ‘the worlds unsinkable ship’ saw 1,503 men, women and children lose their lives when on 14 April 1912. The RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York ship collided with an iceberg one of the biggest disasters in the 20th century.
My grandma was 97 when she died and born the year the Titanic went down 1912. After the second movie came out in 1997 (after 1958 film A night to remember) I wanted to learn from her. She showed me newspapers and told me about the horrific tragedy and how the British media told the story. A story which was close to her heart and deeply upsetting for her.
When I heard the story had been turned into a musical I felt mixed about it. How can they make a musical happy when its such a tragic story? However, Thom Southerland is a talented director so I had good hopes. Plus I think it’s important now to tell the story to a new generation of people.
Curtains opened to a man writing at a desk. Thomas Andrews played by Greg Castiglioni is the Titanic’s shipbuilder /architect which was manufactured in Belfast, Ireland. The scene opens to him and his crew checking people on board of the Titanic an exciting day. Which introduces all the cast to the stage. A grand day for the greatest and largest moving object/ship ever made. The excitement of the crew and new passengers arriving is nice to see. I liked the audience interaction too, new passengers and crew were passing through the aisles of the audience with cases, luggage and items for the boarding of the new RMS Titanic.
As soon as the production starts it is clear that social class is an important element in the Titanic story. Third class passengers who paid as little as $15 and $40 (around $170 today) per ticket lived in digs on the ship and worked on it. Second class passengers who paid $60 (around $700 today) and first-class passengers $4,350 (around $50,000) today. First class passengers were treated to a life of luxury with millionaire and billionaires on board such as Isidor and Ida Straus owners of the famous New York department store Macy’s and even a countess Lady Rothes (Lucy Noel Martha Dyer-Edwards). First class passengers dined every night with the Captain Edward John Smith played by Phillip Rham. Under the strong influence of Joseph Bruce Ismay played by Simon Green. He played the managing director of White Star Line which owned RMS Titanic. J Bruce pushed and persuaded the captain to increase the ships spend to as much as 23 knots to save time to get to New York. This event leads up to the disaster when the captain both increased the speed and also ignored the warning signs signalling an iceberg in its path. Warnings CQD ‘Morse Code’ by Harold Bride played by Oliver Marshall.
I thought the onstage chemistry between the Captain and J Bruce was intense and due to both of these characters plus the decisions of Thomas Andrews lead to ultimate destruction of the world ‘most unsinkable ship’ their egos and actions cost the lives of 1,503 people. Only 705 people survived. Tragically enough there were only a mere 16 boats and ‘four’ collapsible’s which could only accommodate 1,178 people. Meant that not everyone would even get a chance to get on a lifeboat! Only one-third of passengers would get a seat. Out of 2,240 passengers and 900 crew.
The first half of the production for me was slow, I thought all the crew had lovely voices especially Thomas Andrews played by Greg Castiglioni and Kate Mullins played by Emma Harrold.
As the second half came the iceberg had hit the Titanic. At 11.40pm, the lookout sounded the alarm and telephoned the bridge warning: “Iceberg, right ahead”. But tragically the warning came too late and 37 seconds later, Titanic struck the iceberg – tearing a series of holes along the side of the hull (300 foot long). The most horrific moment in the entire production came next; a meeting between Thomas Andrews (ships architect) the Captain and J Bruce. Thomas explains how 6 compartments of the ship had been breached with water, the ship could only withstand 3 watertight compartments and able to stay afloat. The realisation that the ship was actually going to sink in less than 2 hours was horrifying. Particularly for Thomas and the captain who take on all the blame because they would know that conversations and decisions they had made would result in over a thousand deaths. The acting from Thomas, the captain and J Bruce was excellent and truly gives you an idea of what it actually must have felt like to receive and deliver that news to the other passengers. Highlighted in the scene ‘The Blame’.
Highlights for me included the singing from Bellboy/Wallace Hartley played by Lewis Cornay who played a fourteen-year-old crew member with a beautiful soft voice. Also, the very famous couple who owned Macy’s Department store Isidor and Ida Straus played by Dudley Roger & Janet Moony She refused to get into a lifeboat and said to her husband ” As we have lived, so will we die, together.” they were married for over 60 years. They were seen last seen on deck arm in arm. Eyewitnesses described the scene as a “most remarkable exhibition of love and devotion” while music played out by musicians who played for 2 hours and 5 minutes as the ship sank. Incredibly sad and powerful story. The interesting thing about this particular story of the Titanic is that James Cameron cut this scene out in the 1997 movie. Which to me was an important scene.
Of course, other people’s stories on the ship were also just as important, newlyweds, people who were about to married as they go to New York and people who just wanted a better life. People like Frederick Barrett played by Niall Sheehy who wanted to see the world and return to be married in England after his trip. Frederick played a boiler room man who nearly became locked downstairs, as it was decided to lock all of the third class passengers downstairs when they knew the ship was sinking. People like the captain who played god deciding who would live and die! Lifeboats only were at half capacity. Due to the chaos and disorganisation. The first lifeboat left with only 28 people on it, when it was capable of holding 65 people.
For me the most powerful scene was the last, the survivors came out on stage and had their backs turned with RMS Carpathia on their backs (rescue ship’s name) all of the names of the dead were listed in front of the survivors on a big screen for the audience and each survivor turned around and disclosed who they had lost on the Titanic. The names of over 1500 who had lost there lives 3 hours after the Titanic first crashed into the iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic.
The final song ‘ Godspeed Titanic’ was very emotional and powerful. The lyrics and music was beautiful well done Maury Yeston!
For me I did enjoy the production, however, I did get lost in everyone’s story. Too much going on at the same time, I got lost in the characters. I feel that if they had concentrated on one or two the stories including the main characters Thomas, captain and J Bruce I would have given it five stars. Also, it would have been nice to hear the Celine Dion song too.
However, if you want to hear powerful voices and a story told in a different way than James Cameron than this is for you. Powerful, poignant and an unforgettable story, directed tastefully by Thom Southerland.
The real star if the show is Mark Aspinall’s six-piece band. Godspeed Titanic and The Proposal/The Night Was Alive beautifully executed and pulls at the heartstrings.
An extremely sad story, which this production did tastefully.
Tickets click: here
On until Saturday 12th May 2018 then continues on its UK tour.