Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TITANIC at the Charing Cross Theatre - Goin' down for a second time!

It's always nice when you see a musical staged that you never expected to see... it's even better when you get to see it again!

In 2013 I finally saw the musical TITANIC at the Southwark Playhouse.  I have been a big fan of Maury Yeston's wonderfully stirring score since first hearing the cast recording in 1997 when the show premiered on Broadway and just assumed that no London production would ever happen due to the risky prospect of the staging such a big show.  But the Southwark Playhouse seems to relish putting on shows that other West End producers might baulk at and although the show was naturally compromised by the size of the auditorium, cast and musicians, the quality of the show shone through.

And now the show's director Thom Southerland has been made the Artistic Director of the small Charing Cross Theatre and his lead show?  TITANIC - Yaay!  It's great that his fine production is getting another chance to be seen.  I am happy to say that the production has garnered some excellent reviews and it has been extended past it's closing date.

As much as I liked the original production there were one or two performances that pulled the focus in a bad way but I am happy to report that the cast here present a more unified whole.  There are quite a few of the cast returning from the original production and the new additions fit snugly in with them and like I said, they made a seamless ensemble - who also deserve much praise for the lightning speed in which they double and triple up in the character and ensemble roles they all have.

Of the new cast I liked David Bardsley's hissable Ismay, Helena Blackman's poised Lady Caroline, James Gant as the unflappable head waiter Mr Etches, Douglas Hansell's doomed Charles Clarke, Claire Machin's social-climbing Alice Beane and Peter Prentice as her exasperated husband Edgar.

It was a delight to see again Matthew Crowe's Harold Bride, the wireless operator who only lights up when talking about his machine, Victoria Serra as the vivacious (and secretly pregnant) Irish girl Kate McGowan eager to start a new life in America and Shane McDaid as her quick-thinking 'fella' Jim.

The ensemble singing again made the show thrilling as they belted out Maury Yeston's emotional score - GODSPEED TITANIC, LADY'S MAID and WE'LL MEET TOMORROW were all effortless tearjerkers. The late Peter Stone's book again stood out for what can be achieved in storytelling within a musical setting and I was struck how often he comes back to the fact that on Titanic everything depended on what class you were, even in the ultimate extreme of whether you lived or died.

David Woodhead's economical set fitted snugly onto the Charing Cross Theatre stage and again proved remarkably effective in changing locations aboard the ship - especially in the frantic action that takes place when the ship starts to sink.

Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's TITANIC is playing until the 13th August at the Charing Cross Theatre and, for me, it is currently the best show on in the West End.

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