Alice (Claire Machin) Edgar (Peter Prentice)
Andrews (Sion Lloyd)
Kate McGowan (Victoria Serra) Kate Mullins (Scarlett Courtney) Kate Murphy (Jessica Paul)
Andrews (Sion Lloyd)
Barrett (Niall Sheehy)
A triumphant maiden voyage for the new Charing Cross Theatre regime
I think it’s probably fair to say that the last time I was on the verge of tears at the Charing Cross Theatre, it was because I was really sad that I was in the Charing Cross Theatre. For a very long time it went uncontested as the worst venue in London, its crowning achievement being ‘Dusty’, a dreadful musical about Dusty Springfield that somehow had the longest preview period of any theatre production in British history, and was still unmitigatedly awful.
So thank the heavens for new Charing Cross boss Thom Southerland. For years he’s been one of the most exciting musical theatre directors on the fringe, and I’d wondered what his next step would be. This is it: taking over the ailing Charing Cross, and getting his tenure off to a rousing start with a ready-made hit: a transfer of his excellent 2013 Southwark Playhouse revival of Peter Stone and Maury Yeston’s ‘Titanic’.
Though only linked to James Cameron’s film weepie by subject matter – the tragic 1912 sinking of the world’s biggest passenger liner on its maiden voyage – the deal is actually broadly the same. The first half is a kaleidoscopic look at the vibrant, hope-filled life on the ship, with particular emphasis on how the vast vessel serves as a microcosm of the class system. The second, more gripping half follows the foundering of the ship after being ripped open by an iceberg.
The show’s great strength and slight weakness is the volume of stories – it gets off to a slow start as it methodically works through something close to ten sub plots that follow the hopes and dreams of sundry passengers and crew.
But come the end this all pays off big time: we are invested in the fates of these people, and it makes the ending all that more devastating.
Song-wise there’s no toe-tappers, but a smart, lyrical score bought to impressive life by Southerland’s large company.
There’s a ways to go at the Charing Cross Theatre still – there’s a conspicuous lack of diversity in the cast, and ‘Titanic’ is a pre-made hit, not an in-house production. But certainly Southerland has captained his maiden voyage impressively well.
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4.8 / 5
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Not having researched the music or plot beforehand (although I was pretty sure I’d know the overall gist of the latter), I had very little idea of what to expect. I’d heard that the orchestral parts had been massively reduced, and that there was a cast of 20 on a minimalist stage, and feared the worst, but was egged on by early favourable reviews and a friend who assured me it would be worth the hit my almost empty bank account would take for a ticket. All anxieties disappeared as soon as the opening number got going. Yes, it’s a long one and yes, the content mostly involves characters saying ‘ooh, look at this ship?’ ‘isn’t it a good ship?’ ‘oh aye, it’s grand’ etc, etc. But the (very clever) staging, understated but compelling characterisations, and frankly some of the most beautiful singing I’ve ever heard in a musical, more than made up for the occasional monotony of the lyrics or ‘bitty’ feel of some of the music. And these elements continued to carry the show through almost all rough patches. In all, I think it’s the cast and production team involved, rather than the raw material, that makes this musical so astounding (although one cannot deny that the music and lyrics tug at the heartstrings when necessary), but astounding it most certainly is, and I urge you to get a ticket whilst it’s still on. That way you can pull the same face I did to the friend sitting next to me at the end of the first number, which looked something like a cross between an excited puppy and a shocked goldfish. Unattractive, maybe, but strangely eloquent considering the wonderful spectacle we’d just enjoyed. Charming stuff.
This was wonderful wonderful wonderful I'm going to recommend it to everyone I see. Be prepared to cry but it's so so worth it. The theatre's a lovely setting and the music's beautiful. Best thing I've seen for a long time.
A Fabulous afternoon I had! From the moment the Overture starts, the spine tingles! Each solo, duet or trio is a joy, and each character (all real names) grip you with their story, whether crew, wealthy 1st or escaping poverty 3rd class. Thank you, Peter and Maury, creators, and the musicians!
I loved this show. Beautifully sung with amazing ensemble work. With such an intimate setting, one couldn't help being drawn into the drama. Brilliant casting! Cast and writers of 'Wag the musical', please take note! This is how to do it.