Reviewed by Jenny Bray
I was intrigued to see how the story of Titanic had been turned in to a musical, particularly as the content is inevitably quite serious yet musicals are often light hearted. Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Broadway musical first opened in 1997, 6 months prior to the release of the blockbuster film starring DiCaprio and Winslet. It has since toured and picked up several awards.
This musical tells the story of the maiden voyage of the Titanic, sailing from Southampton to America, including many facts about the ship. It was supposed to have been designed to be unsinkable, a floating city that was quarter of a mile long, with three very different social classes on board. The third-class immigrants were hoping for a better life, the second class were hoping to achieve greater wealth and the first class were fine dining, enjoying their privilege and the best the ship had to offer while sailing speedily to America.
The show was based on real people’s stories, both passengers and crew, from that fateful journey, ending on 15th April 1912. The first half of the show, prior to the interval, was all scene setting showing the fine dining of the upper class versus the aspiring second class wanting to be like the first-class passengers and the third class dreaming of a better life and better opportunities in America than they had in England or Ireland. It also highlighted Ismay’s (Simon Green) push to keep increasing the speed to ensure the Titanic beat the competition to reach the shores of America quickly and become well known (ironic in retrospect as this then happened but for all the wrong reasons). Warnings of icebergs were ignored as the fires were stoked more to speed the ship up beyond 22 knots, even though this speed wasn’t recommended during a maiden voyage. When the iceberg hits the side of the ship it damages 6 of the 16 chambers. If only 3 or 4 had been damaged, then it may have managed to stay afloat. Once the iceberg has hit and they realise they are sinking they send out a distress signal. The closest responding ship is 4 hours away yet the longest anyone could survive in the icy water would be around 90 minutes. There were only 20 lifeboats on board when 54 would have been needed to save everyone. Women and children were put on the lifeboats first. 711 survived, 1517 drowned yet there were 450 spaces on lifeboats.
It was performed at the Lyceum theatre in Sheffield. It is well signposted and easy to get to and if you head to the Charles Street Q parks, just a short walk from the theatre, you can get the first hour free if you get a ticket from a member of the theatre staff. The staff are welcoming and helpful. The box office is by the main entrance doors and there are bars on the ground and first floors and a kiosk on the ground floor selling sweets and soft drinks.
The stage setting was quite simple, with dark metal studded walls in the background and a two-tier setting of the ship with moving staircases. This remained at all times, although the main stage area changed a few times including for the fine dining area of the first class who were dining with the captain to the office of the designer, Thomas Andrews (Greg Castiglioni). The lighting varied according to the setting. It was nice to a see a varying age range throughout the cast and they also utilised the aisles during a few scenes.
I particularly liked Niall Sheehy’s portrayal of Frederick Barrett with a strong northern accent that even resonated when he was singing. I also found Lewis Cornay’s portrayal of an enthusiastic young Bellboy entrancing.
The music was well performed and set the atmosphere well, changing the mood and feel between differing scenes. However, I sometimes found the lyrics a bit hard to follow, when lots of people were on stage all singing at once and over each other.
There were lots of historic references and real people’s names and details were referred to throughout. Although the 3rd class were mentioned and covered off I felt that there wasn’t quite enough made of this group of people, particularly when the ship was sinking. The fate of those who didn’t make it on to life boats was also generally depicted as quite calm and serene.
For me, although I found it very moving, there weren’t any really memorable songs. Usually you leave a musical with at least one song firmly in your head. This didn’t happen for me on this occasion. I was quite glad that ‘My Heart Will Go On’ did not feature in this version though! I enjoyed it and felt it was very cleverly put together and therefore rate it 4 out of 5.
Tickets cost from £23.50 to £39 (booking fees may apply).
Titanic the Musical is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 21-26 May 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000