by Anne Hill
The Titanic story, delicately told.
A musical about the first and final voyage of the Titanic? Difficult, surely to treat such an epic tragedy with toe-tapping tunes, romantic duets and happy chorus lines.
Yet it worked. It worked beautifully. A cast of 45, directed by Ken Robertson-Scott, took us through the events of the six days leading up to the catastrophe while, overhead, black and white newsreel footage of the time added its own emotional impact.
From the outset the audience shared the hopes and dreams of the passengers and crew. For Captain Smith (Geoff Heard) this was to be the crowning achievement of his long seafaring career while, for Joseph Ismay (David Coxon), White Star Shipping Line director, there was the prospect of a lifetime to say: “I was on her maiden voyage”. And for others there were dreams of promotion, marriage or new directions.
The causes of the disaster are part of naval history, particularly the emphasis which was put on luxury and speed at the expense of safety. The audience already knew the heartbreaking ending.
So what made this show so compulsive? There was the music, of course, which, under the leadership of John Dempster, reflected the mood of the moment and added its own emotional appeal. Then there was the almost unbearable awareness that, for the majority of the passengers, there would be no happy ending.
The show lasted two hours and five minutes. This, poignantly, exactly matched the time between the Titanic hitting the iceberg and finally disappearing into the frozen Arctic sea, taking with it the lives and dreams of 1,500 souls, the great majority of them third-class passengers, together with stewards, cooks, scullions and other workers who smoothed the luxurious lives of the first-class passengers.
A wonderfully memorable and deeply moving performance.
Southern Daily Echo
by Gwen Moulster
Based on the true story of the Titanic, this musical is full of drama. It builds the story of key characters from the launch of the ship to the disastrous aftermath of the collision.
A large, beautifully costumed cast, performed this challenging production with confidence under the musical direction of John Dempster. Supported by a 17 piece orchestra, at times the sound was truly magnificent. Unfortunately it was not always possible to hear the words over the music.
Good use was made of scaffolding to give the effect of the ship and the effective staging added to the atmosphere. At times however, the production lacked pace especially in the lengthy first half.
Although there were many key characters it was difficult to single out individuals because this was very much an ensemble piece. Worthy of special mention is newcomer, Rebecca Davies (Kate McGowan) who sang and acted beautifully.
Alec J. Ruddick NODA Regional Representative, SW Area Region District 10
First produced in New York in 1997, this musical by Maury Yeston won five Tony Awards.
With about fifty members on stage, at times it could look overcrowded, but thanks to clever direction by Ken Robertson-Scott, it never did. The difficult score was played and sung extremely well, though at times the orchestra under Musical Director John Dempster was rather too loud.
Back projection is quite a feature of the musical and it was well handled in this production with still photographs of various locations showing the original 1st Class Dining Room and Deck, etc. The lack of scenery was rather boring, especially as the whole stage was in black drapes with a metal gantry running across the left and right wings. Clever use was made of this when boarding and disembarkation was made and the escape to the lifeboats. Uniforms and costumes were in keeping with the period, as were the props, and make-up most natural.
The difficult chorus singing was superb and the acting was of a very high standard. The large cast were all convincing and obviously well rehearsed. The finale was most moving and the gradual slow exit of the company with the Captain being the last to go was most fitting.