Belfast Telegraph

Emotional Titanic musical finally sets sail in Belfast

By David Young

It's taken 21 years for a professional production of Titanic The Musical to reach the city where the doomed liner was built.

On the face of it, a tragedy that claimed 1,500 lives is an unlikely candidate for a fun night out at the theatre - but Titanic The Musical has proved it has yet to run its course.

A two-year run on Broadway and a critically-acclaimed London revival in 2013 are a testament to the quality of the writing of Maury Yeston (music and lyrics) and Peter Stone (story and book).

The touring show which opened in Belfast's Grand Opera House last night has had its own rocky moments.

When it was staged in Southampton - the port from where the Harland & Wolff-built liner sailed on its fateful maiden voyage - part of the theatre wall collapsed, forcing the cancellation of the performance.

But last night's show in Belfast was a theatrical tour de force, retelling the story of the liner's tragic journey in a compelling mix of song, dance, superb sets and bravura ensemble playing.

The show skilfully interweaves the excitement on the luxury ship with the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the passengers and crew - all given tragic resonance by the impending destruction of the great vessel as it heads inexorably towards the iceberg.

The sharp social hierarchies and class divisions on board are shown through a series of vignettes featuring a plucky Irish peasant couple from steerage, rich American toffs in first class, a shopkeeper and his socially ambitious wife, and a lovesick stoker from the bowels of the ship as they sing and dance towards disaster.

They are broadly drawn characters, but very engaging nonetheless, and the story, though well known, is given a powerful emotional impact by this show and its excellent cast and crew. The Belfast audience loved it.

"It's a fantastic show - simply fabulous," said Belfast woman Alison Mains.

"I didn't really know what I was coming along to see, but I am very impressed."

She'd been worried that a stage musical about the Titanic would be overshadowed by the famous big-budget James Cameron film.

"I wondered how they could possibly compress such a big story into the stage - but they've done it brilliantly.

"It's great entertainment."

Theatregoer Alan Meban had also had concerns, but had been won over by the energy and the attention to detail as the story unfolded.

"I'm enjoying it," he said. "It's much better than I'd expected.

"It could've been crass - but it isn't."

Roisin Johnson, who'd travelled from Newcastle, said she too had been wondering how they would tell the story of the Titanic on the small stage.

"But it's very well done.

"I really enjoyed it," she said.

And her friend Annette Killen said: "It's very different from the film - and very well put together.

"I'd recommend it - it's a great night out," the Newcastle theatre lover said.

Directed by Tom Southerland, Titanic The Musical continues at the Grand Opera House until Saturday. Tickets cost from £20.25 to £41.25

Belfast Telegraph

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