Theatre review: Titanic the Musical @ The Lowry

PUBLISHED: 12:08 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 10 May 2018

Alice Beane (Claire Machin) and Edgar Beane (Timothy Quinlan)
Credit: Scott Rylander

Alice Beane (Claire Machin) and Edgar Beane (Timothy Quinlan) Credit: Scott Rylander


An emotion-packed, heart-wrenching, soul-stirring musical re-telling of the sinking of the world’s most famous passenger ship, Titanic the Musical is a glorious success, says Kate Houghton

Of course, we all know what happens in the end, the words ‘spoiler alert’ simply cannot be applied here; the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912 has reverberated down the ages as an example of man’s hubris and nature’s response. With this in mind, it would be more than easy for anybody creating a musical version of the story to get it horribly wrong, presenting a mawkish, overly sentimental book and score. Thankfully this isn’t the case with this soaring, breathtaking glory of a show, which brought the audience on its feet as the curtain fell.

It opens with Joseph Ismay (Simon Green), the chairman of the White Star Line and driving force behind the design and build of the Titanic. He declaims that: ‘in every age mankind attempts to fabricate great works at once magnificent and impossible.’ The Titanic is his twentieth century answer to the Pyramids, Medieval Gothic cathedrals and even the Sistine Chapel. ‘A floating city, a human metropolis...a complete civilization!” His self-congratulatory ode to his own brilliance would grate even had the ship not failed, and it’s the perfect introduction to the continuing tale of arrogance that results in the loss of over 1500 lives.

Ready to depart. The cast of Titanic The Musical
Credit: Scott RylanderReady to depart. The cast of Titanic The Musical Credit: Scott Rylander

The storytelling is a triumph. Through song and speech we get to know the people on board, all of whom are named for people who actually sailed on the Titanic. In Third Class, we meet people fleeing poverty or social restrictions, seeking a better, freer life in the USA. In Second Class we meet successful, hardworking men and women, painfully aware of their status and determined to improve it. Mrs. Alice Beane, wife of Mr. Edgar Beane (Timothy Quinlan), owner of a single hardware store in the midwest is beautifully played by Claire Machin, who gives this unashamed social climber real likeability, as we enjoy her escapades to the First Class Lounge, where she delightedly rubs shoulders with Astors and Guggenheims. In First Class, our heroes are the Strauses, Isidor and Ida.

Saying goodbye. The cast of Titanic the Musical.
Credit: Scott RylanderSaying goodbye. The cast of Titanic the Musical. Credit: Scott Rylander

This knowledge helps to build an increasing sense of dread. Our relationship with these people fosters a genuine curiosity as to who will survive, and who will not. It is this, in addition to an incredible score, that will have Titanic the Musical run and run.

And goodness, what a glorious score. Music and lyrics are brought to us by multi-award winning Maury Yeston. ‘Godspeed Titanic’, sung by the full cast as the ship sets sail and again as it dies, is truly beautiful. A rousing, heart-stirring crescendo of voices, supported by a live orchestra, it leaves you quite breathless. There is fun: ‘Doing the Latest Rag’ gives us the First Class passengers and a very happy Mrs Beane in a jolly song and dance number, and heartbreak: ‘Still’ is a celebration of the 40 year marriage of Isidor and Ida, as they prepare to die on board the unsinkable ship. Google their story, it’s beautiful and brave and sad.

Placing blame. Ship's architect Thomas Andrews (Greg Castiglioni), Captain Edward Smith (Philip Rham), radio operator Harold Bride (Oliver Marshall) and White Star Line chairman J Bruce Ismay (Simon Green)
Credit: Scott RylanderPlacing blame. Ship's architect Thomas Andrews (Greg Castiglioni), Captain Edward Smith (Philip Rham), radio operator Harold Bride (Oliver Marshall) and White Star Line chairman J Bruce Ismay (Simon Green) Credit: Scott Rylander

I imagine that today quite a number of people are Googling the Titanic, in fact. It was a perfect storm of many small, poor decisions combing to create disaster, many of which are revealed during the show. It’s cleverly done, and each one revealed helps to enhance that feel of creeping dread in the audience, as the passengers merrily play, and look forward to a bright and shining future.

This show most certainly has a bright and shining future and if you can grab yourself a ticket, you’ll have a first class experience.

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