REVIEW: Titanic The Musical, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until April 21
If you can't help wondering whether there is something slightly inappropriate about adding the words 'The Musical' to the word 'Titanic', this monumental Mayflower co-production offers the perfect riposte.
Absolutely not – if it is done with imagination and dignity, as it is here.
But maybe more striking, in hindsight, is the way it is done with a remarkable sleight of hand.
We come away not having seen a single drop of water and having stared at a representation of just one tiny section of the massive ship. And yet we still come away with a profound sense of both the majesty and the tragedy of that fateful April night 106 years ago.
The staging is superb and the acting equally so. The songs, however, or more specifically their often strident style, take a little getting used to, but when you do, it all comes together to offer something quite remarkable.
The show gets off to a slightly clunky start, with too many characters heavy-handedly telling each other things they really ought to know, purely for the benefit of the audience; and there is even a song which lists the Titantic’s vital statistics.
But just as hitting the iceberg is the great turning point for the ship, so too is it for the show. In the first half there are sillinesses you wonder the producers haven’t spotted, but in the second half there is focus – and immense pathos.
A lot of the exposition is fairly leaden, but ultimately the characters do come alive, with their different aspirations, so many of them doomed to meet a watery end.
It’s a show without stars and all the better for it, a fine ensemble cast working together beautifully, with ever-increasing returns.
You wonder how on earth the tale can be told on stage; and the show delivers all the answers. You feel it’s a show which will stand or fall with the way it concludes. Titanic The Musical pitches it perfectly.
Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's show requires more work on the first half; but the second half offers a true commemoration – and a very moving sense of the sheer scale of the loss.
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2