After seeing the glossy souvenir brochure, I was excited to see what this musical had in store. The disaster story is one that we all know and perhaps seems an unlikely subject for a musical.
This chamber musical originating on Broadway in 1997 by Maury Yeston (music and lyrics) and Peter Stone (story and book) surprises in its depth and political leanings. We don’t get the love story we expect, but interwoven into the proceedings are lots of love stories throughout the different classes on the ship. The opening number describes the ship as a floating city, which is the culmination of human ambition. It is also a symbol of a class system that makes sure the first class passengers were first in the lifeboats when the iceberg hit.
Thom Southerland directs a simply staged production, which serves the choral music well. The design by David Woodhead felt too simplistic in a show that requires a sense of vastness. The only movement was a ladder on wheels that was the focal point at the climatic moment and felt rather forced. This story deserves a rather more dynamic and epic setting. The lighting by Howard Hudson was suitably faded and atmospheric.
Yeston and Stone set out to write a story that portrayed people’s dreams and finally their sacrifice and bravery in the face of adversity. The crystal clear vocals from the cast make this show a heartfelt and soaring experience. There are some stand out performances that come into focus during the show. Niall Sheehy as Barrett has an epic voice that sings a beautiful love song to his lover he has left at home. Matthew McKenna as Henry Etches has a stoic strength in the face of the impending tragedy. Victoria Serra plays a pregnant Irish girl dreaming of a better life in America and Chris McGuigan is the perfect partner for her to propose to. All the characters have lives and loves that will ultimately not come to fruition. It is an eerie feeling watching all these character’s stories unfold when we know that it will not end as they imagined.
The soaring music sweeps the story along with some great ensemble singing from the cast. I was disappointed with the staging, as it seemed a little too simple. The overall effect, however, was that of a cleverly written story about individual people’s lives who were ripped apart by the symbol of human endeavour that was decreed indestructible.
At WMC until 5th May 2018