Titanic – The Musical 2019

Students bring Energy and Emotion to Titanic

When I first heard about Titanic – The Musical, I did not expect to like it.  After all, this is a story of a great tragedy – how could they turn it into a musical?  But to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the production I saw in Toronto four years ago.  Now on stage at the Grand in London, Titanic – The Musical is this year’s High School Project.  Again, I’m pleased with how much I enjoyed it, and how it compares favourably with the professional production.

Titanic – The Musical is a true ensemble show with no one person in a starring role.  This makes it perfect for the annual High School Project.  There are enough characters that each of the student actors has a name.

The Grand annually offers an amazing opportunity for high school students to audition for a role in a production, creating an experience as close to professional theatre as possible.  This year, 49 student actors were on stage as well as 23 students who took on various jobs in production or playing in the orchestra.

As the Titanic is about to set sail, we are introduced to people in first, second and third class as well as crew.  In Act I we get to know them.  When the iceberg is hit, we feel the overwhelming loss of these people and this marvellous ship.

The show’s score is rich and full, and the young people have the energy to sing it.  But equally important is the fact that the tragedy is treated with great respect.  We are reminded that so many people with so much to give lost their lives on that night in April 1912.

Titanic – The Musical opened on Broadway in 1997, and although it won the Tony for the best musical that year, it didn’t prove as popular with audiences.  Then, it was overshadowed by the famous movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  In fact, the musical is still living in the movie’s shadow.  In the pre-show promotions, the students have to explain that it’s not the story of Jack and Rose.  Frankly, I find the musical to be preferable – it has love stories without the Jack and Rose melodrama.  I feel that the audience is getting a more realistic depiction of that glorious maiden voyage, followed by the sudden disaster.  In fact, the characters in the musical are actually people who were on the Titanic.

There is ominous foreshadowing in the fact that Mr. Ismay of White Star Lines (Titanic’s owner) is telling the Captain to go faster, and the Captain is ignoring the many iceberg warnings.  Of course, the audience knows the outcome, but still the tension is accelerating.

The students all perform with great enthusiasm and sing the score with full, rich voices.  The ensemble numbers are particularly good, with the students filling the theatre with powerful harmony.

The set is interesting.  As the characters board the ship, they are, of course, carrying suitcases.  Those many suitcases are transformed in other set pieces.  In fact, an arrangement of valises forms the fatal iceberg.

Credit goes to Director Andrew Tribe for putting together this monumental production.  Tribe, himself, is an alumnus of the High School Project.

A trip to see Titanic – The Musical is well worth it.  First, I believe it is more historically accurate than the movie and secondly, it has beautiful music, wonderfully sung.  It also offers a time for reflection:  while to most of us it is just a story, it serves as a reminder.  A total of 1,503 people died, including passengers and crew, while only 705 survived.

Titanic – The Musical continues at the Grand Theatre, London until September 28.  Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

Photo: High school students fill the stage in Titanic – The Musical.  Photo by Dahlia Katz. 

Titanic – The Musical
High School Project 2019
Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Story and Book by Peter Stone
Directed by Andrew Tribe
Musical Direction by Andrew Petrasiunas
Choreographed by Julie Tomaino
Performed by Students of London and area secondary schools.
Grand Theatre, London
September 17 to 28, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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