There’s certainly no lack of ambition in the production of Maury Yeston’s Titanic which has just berthed at The Charing Cross Theatre in approximately the same production as was last seen back in 2013 at Southwark Playhouse.
Like that outing, the production used isn’t the Broadway original which ran for a little under two years back in the late 1990’s, but the slimmed-down and re-worked chamber version which still boasts a cast of twenty, who double, playing all the roles.
To be honest, given the handkerchief-sized stage at The Charing Cross Theatre a cast of 20 is easily enough and with Thom Southerland’s masterful direction and David Woodhead’s inventive design it often ‘feels’ like there are many more than that in the cast, though I can only imagine the costume changes going on backstage must make it like a scene out of Noises Off.
Likewise the set feels rather more expansive than it is as everybody keeps telling you of its opulence.
New orchestrations were conceived for the outing in Southwark – basically a string quartet with two keyboards and percussion – and in the suitably nautically decked-out confines of The Charing Cross Theatre they sound rather fine.
So, is it any good? Well… probably as good as you’re likely to get. The sound is incredible, and the balance perfect in what can be a very unforgiving space.
However, once you hurdle the barrier of taste – or otherwise – of the piece you’re left with the unquestionable fact that Maury Yeston’s writing is actually a bit like Marmite. You either love him, or…like me…you wonder why everything has to be at such a heightened state of emotional intensity that, frankly, it all gets a bit tiring after a while. I sometimes found myself wondering why people were singing at all.
Still, minor quibbles in a fantastic production in which a few stars twinkle. Danielle Tarento, who both produces and acts as casting director, has done a fine job not only in the quality, but the age range. There really are singers just starting out in their careers, such as Scarlett Courtney and Luke George, and then more mature artistes such as Dudley Rogers and Judith Street who play respectively Isador and Isa Strauss, the co-owners or Macy’s department store in New York, who have one of the most successful of the intertwining stories in Peter Stone’s mammoth book.
David Bardsley as Ismay, the ship’s owner, provides the nearest thing there is to an antagonist – apart from the iceberg – and is appropriately pushy. Sion Lloyd, as Andrews, the ship’s builder is stoically resigned to the mistakes in the construction, and his descent into some sort of madness as he realises far too late how the ship should have been constructed is very nicely realised.
Finally James Gant as Etches, a First Class Steward, has a natural air of authority which has seen him cast as the same type of role in this as he was, so memorably, in Yeston’s Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse last summer.
As I said. A fine cast who work their socks off.
All in all a tuneful evening, if one which I found lacking in emotional engagement until right at the end, when (spoiler alert) the music actually stops and a list appears of the dead. It’s only when you see all their names written down that the scale of the tragedy hits you. It was a big ship.