Review: Titanic the Musical @ The Lowry, Salford

A theatre production can only dream of a smooth sailing run – but it’s ultimately the public who will decide whether it sinks or swims when on the stage. This outing of Titanic the Musical could just about stay afloat, however, it’s been cursed by bad timing before docking at The Lowry in Salford.

Why? Well, this week a debate has been rumbling about whether the maritime disaster should be a source of entertainment. This is after Adele threw herself a Titanic-themed bash – complete with lifejacket costumes – to celebrate her 30th birthday.

Fans jumped to the singer’s defence, reminding people that the sinking of Titanic has previously sparked a musical which opened on Broadway in 1997. One unconvinced social media user quipped that ‘9/11 On Ice’ could be next in the pipeline. It’s not.

ACTION: The plot revolves around the maiden voyage of the doomed ocean liner

Once you’re in the audience it becomes easier to understand how people might feel uneasy while watching Titanic the Musical. After all, it’s not just based on a real event but also on real people who died in the tragedy back in 1912.

This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that there are small doses of humour interwoven into the plot. It doesn’t cause offence, but there are times when you question whether it’s right that you should be laughing.

The light-heartedness is arguably necessary for a production that ambitiously tries (and succeeds) to flesh-out multiple characters and subplots. This story desperately calls for three-dimensional characters though – or why else would we care whether they survive the ship or perish in the ocean?

HUMOUR: A few lines are designed to leave you with a smile on your face

Take Alice Beane (played by Claire Machin), a determined social climber who could give Hyacinth Bucket a run for her money. Despite being the primary source of comedy in the production, she’s arguably the character who the audience are most invested in.

Other personalities in the mix include Lady Caroline Neville (Claire Marlowe), a socialite who’s hopped aboard to elope with a journalist; Kate McGowan (Victoria Serra), a young Irish woman who’s fleeing to America after falling pregnant; and Frederick Barrett (Naill Sheehy), a stoker planning to marry upon completing the maiden voyage.

The calibre of the actors is impressive, as are the tunes they all carry during the production’s various numbers. This is a musical at the end of the day – and there are plenty of songs to sink your teeth into. God Speed Titanic is the most impressive, as well as the one reprised before the final curtain.

TALENT: The hefty cast work as a well-oiled team

Meanwhile, the set is simple and serves its purpose. The biggest obstacle in this department is that the public are so accustomed to big production value when it comes to the dramatisation of the sinking of Titanic. It’s admittedly quite hard to shake off the image of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (no matter how hard you try!).

All in all this production of Titanic the Musical might pose a moral dilemma for those who are willing to fully buy into what’s being sold, whereas those who take it in their stride will probably be the biggest fans.

*Titanic the Musical is showing at The Lowry until Saturday, May 12. You can buy tickets HERE.

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