Titanic the Musical – Southwark Playhouse

Celia Graham and Oliver Hembrough in Titanic the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse. Picture: Roy Tan

Celia Graham and Oliver Hembrough in Titanic the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse. Picture: Roy Tan

Titanic the Musical continues at the Southwark Playhouse, London until 31 August.

Director Thom Southerland has created a wonder again with this first-class European premiere of a new chamber version of the Tony Award-winning show Titanic the Musical.

In an age of overblown musicals based on movies which are slavishly faithful to their Hollywood models, it is good news that in there is no Leonardo-Kate romance and Celine Dion ballad in this Titanic.

Instead, in its place, is is an original and mature piece which has an authenticity even musical-haters might admire. The characters are all based on real passengers who sailed aboard the greatest ship in the world, with each of the three couples belonging to a different class, together with the crucial figures of captain, owner and architect.

Some have said that the Titanic wreck ended the 19th century for good, and indeed the class division is blatantly depicted here in this serious, albeit entertaining musical. The reasons leading to the disaster are also well stated in the clever and original book by the late Peter Stone.

And what a score from Maury Yeston, charged with emotion from beginning to end, and sung by a top-notch cast all excelling in the voice and acting departments. All of this means that the large scenery and special effects featured in the Broadway original, as well as the Dutch and German versions, are never missed.

Yeston’s score even grows in intensity with the use of a small orchestra led by musical director Mark Aspinall and the acting always rings true. Standing out are stellar performances from James Austen-Murray, Simon Green and Celia Graham. The lighting by Howard Hudson and the set/costume design by David Woodhead are also highly effective.

All in all, this is a must-see production – presented by Danielle Tarento in association with the Southwark Playhouse – which should transfer or be recorded in some form or another (especially with a new song reinstated from the original score).

Patrick Honore



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