★★★☆☆ | Titanic – The Musical – Liverpool Empire
Despite it being over 100 years since Titanic slipped under the waves, the fascination with the ship and those on board hasn’t faded, as evidenced by the packed house of this revival of Moury Yeston’s musical. The story of the ships maiden voyage and, ultimately, its demise is told through a wealth of characters from all classes of passengers and from the crew on board.
The set, all sheet metal and rivets, towers above the audience instilling in them the impression of the sheer scale of the ship whilst a simple two-tier stage evoked an image of the decks and worked effectively. But from the off, the cast were on top form, as the magnificent ensemble belted out the opening numbers with such gusto that it reverberated in the chest, like the sounds of the engines of the great ship itself.
And therein lays the strength of this production. Its cast was outstanding, and whether singing alone, in small groups or as an ensemble, the whole thing was beautifully sung and more akin to an opera than a musical. The three leads Philip Rham, Simon Green and Greg Castiglioni bounced off each other nicely as the Captain, owner and designer of the ship, and Niall Sheeny impressed as the stoker Fred Barrett. Whilst the direction was fairly minimal, the cast switched between their multiple roles seamlessly, spilling out into the aisles on occasions to engage the audience; whilst on a technical level, the lighting and sound design, the costumes and the balance between actors voices and orchestra were all absolutely spot on.
Sadly, an overly long runtime, a handful of similar-sounding songs and a few too many story threads anchored down the first act to an extent, but the second act picked up the pace as the race to abandon ship took hold.
What comes out of the production is an underlying theme of love between the characters, from the newlyweds to the eloping couple to the elderly husband and wife, and it is this which packs the emotional punch and brings the human cost of the tragedy sharply into focus.