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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Review: Titanic The Musical @ The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Captained by Stoke-on-Trent’s Edward Smith, the Titanic has close ties to the city and the story of what happened on that tragic day in 1912 has long been a part of the city’s heritage.

And it is the personal stories behind the headlines that dominate the retelling of what happened that fateful day in Titanic The Musical, which is at The Regent Theatre until Saturday, April 29.

Every inch the classical musical, the action is overlayed by a richly emotive score courtesy of the orchestra, giving the musical real depth from the outset and building to a moving crescendo as the ending that we know all too well moves closer.

The first half of the show is given over to focus on the passengers on board the majestic liner, unfolding the stories of their lives and centring strongly on the class divide that was epitomised on the ship.

The focus on the class divide and what that meant to the fate of the people on the ship, their life experiences and the part that played in the unfurling disaster was fascinating and well executed. Never preaching, the show laid bare the injustices of a class system that let third class passengers drown, trapped in the ship, while first class travellers were handed life jackets and taken to safety on half-empty life boats.

The passion of the songs and the feel of the music, lends itself well to the stirring stories of those who either accept their lot, aspire to more or are frustrated by the system.

In a stand out performance as Frederick Barrett, Adam Filipe represents this excellently. A third class passenger and worker on the ship with a woman he loves at home, he deserves so much more than the hand he is dealt – powerlessly questioning the decisions he has to follow.

Like so many of this large cast, his voice is outstanding, as he plays his role with conviction. But that goes for the rest of the cast too – the signing is absolutely exceptional, allowing the show and its story to pack a powerful punch.

Other noteworthy vocal performances came from Matthew McDonald as Charles Clarke, with a heart-breaking farewell to his lover, and Alastair Hill as Harold Bride – one of the unassuming heroes on board.

While the singing lifts the show to another level, the acting is also a key part of its success with stories such as that of the life-time love story between Ida Strauss (played by Valda Aviks) and Isidor Straus (played by David Delve) adding warmth and depth in their commitment to one another. Likewise the portrayal of social climber Alice Beane by Bree Smith brought a light hearted touch of realism to tell the wider story of life at the time in general – and on the ship in particular – as her husband Edgar Bean (James Darch) tried to contain her within her class.

Bringing depth to the tragedy of those trapped in third class on the Titanic – and their desperate attempts to escape – were Lucie-Mae Sumner as Katie McGowan, determined to find to a better life – and to get fellow passenger Jim Farrell (played by Chris Nevin) to join her.

The power battle in making the ship’s maiden voyage a success, and the ultimate blame game as it all falls apart, is played out well with Captain Edward Smith at the helm, played by Graham Bickley, who is pushed and cajoled by the unlikable J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of The White Star Line that owned the Titanic, played well by Martin Allanson, and Thomas Andrews, the naval architect in charge of the ship’s design, played by Ian McLarnon.

The cast is vast with many stories woven in to tell the story of the luxury liner that became a legend for all the wrong reasons. With the story told through the songs and with the power of the orchestra behind it, Titanic The Musical tells the story of the tragedy that unfolded to great effect.

The imposing outline of the ship that dominates the stage is used to great effect and the performances are flawless. While the first half perhaps seemed to move slowly at times as it reflects the calm before the storm, the second part moves at pace, packed with emotion.

A unique night out to see a different take on a story that is so familiar, and has a firm focus on honouring the lives of those on board who never returned home, Titanic The Musical will take you on an emotional journey.

Titanic The Musical is at The Regent until Saturday, April 29 – book tickets online.


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