Theatre, Musicals & Concerts – Views & Reviews
It seems absurd to think of a staging of the Broadway musical Titanic without the titular ship, but this chamber production did just that and enriched the piece in the process. Without magnificent sets or special effects to distract us, we were free to focus entirely on the characters and their stories.
The original Broadway production opened in 1997 some eight months prior to the James Cameron film, and depspite initial negative reviews went on to run for just under two years winning the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Scenic Design and Best Orchestrations along the way.
Even though this production had been scaled down, the cast was still remarkably numerous for Fringe theatre, with twenty actors playing around forty characters. Instead of the vast three-level set of the original, here all the action was played out on a simple stage with a gangway and portable staircase – but the performances and creative imagination still managed to generate the sense of initial promise and impending doom; so much so that when the ultimate disaster struck it felt like we were witness to the raw terror and emotion of the passengers and crew instead of marvelling at a needlessly expensive set piece.
What surprised me most was the sheer volume achieved, not just by the actors but by the small six person band. Thankfully this was not at the expense of clarity, rather another demonstration of how a grand scale production can be successfully scaled down for Fringe theatre without losing any of the impact.
Although it may seem a strange choice of subject for musical theatre, the piece itself is respectfully written, with the majority of the book focussing on the disagreements between designer Thomas Andrews, owner J. Bruce Ismay and Captain E. J. Smith, and the aspirations and attitudes of the various different classes on board.
Many of the characters are based on actual passengers (with some dramatic license over their backgrounds), and in a similar tribute to that of the Broadway production where the walls of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre had passengers’ names painted on the walls, this production ends with a projection of their names onto the floor.
One of the most moving and impressively realised pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year.
Barrett – James Austen-Murray
Lightoller – Dominic Brewer
Andrews – Greg Castiglioni
Kate Mullins – Scarlett Courtney
Bride – Matthew Crowe
Bellboy/Hartley – Jonathan David Dudley
Kate Murphy – Grace Eccle
Alice Beane – Celia Graham
Ismay – Simon Green
Edgar Beane – Oliver Hembrough
Pitman/Etches – James Hume
Murdoch – Siôn Lloyd
Caroline Neville – Claire Marlowe
Jim Farrell – Shane McDaid
Fleet – Leo Miles
Charles Clarke – Nadim Naaman
Captain Smith – Philip Rham
Isidor Straus – Dudley Rogers
Kate McGowan – Victoria Serra
Ida Straus – Judith Street
All other roles played by members of the company
Story & Book by Peter Stone
Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Orchestrations by Ian Weinberger
Directed by Thom Southerland
Musical Stager – Cressida Carré
Musical Director – Mark Aspinall