Review: Titanic – The Musical, New Theatre, Cardiff

Jackie Davies reviews Titanic The Musical playing Cardiff’s New Theatre until May 13.

Strangely unnerving to know the ending even before curtain up, but without doubt Titanic The Musical at Cardiff’s New Theatre fulfilled all the expectations of an epic journey in both historic and metaphoric terms.

We join the legendary ship at embarkment and are immediately caught up in the grandeur and excitement of the impending maiden voyage of the largest floating liner in the world.

The White Star Line had striven for dominance over the Cunard line as over dinner in 1907, Chairman J Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie, Chairman of shipbuilders Harland and Wolff dreamed of the construction of the Titanic along with two sister ships.

This dream became reality in 1911 and the dream manifested itself in those passengers eagerly embarking the Titanic at Southampton on April 10th, 1912.

The narrative follows the poor working-class passengers hoping for a new life in New York, juxtaposed with second-class passengers, who also aspire to join the upper decks and enjoy all the luxury of first-class service.

The stark difference of experiences at the boarding gate sadly, and inevitably match the stark differences in experiences as the liner meets its destination and this rigid class structure of the era is a constant theme.

This is a powerful production combining all the elements of successful musical theatre, and when an extremely versatile cast sing as an ensemble, the sound is both emotive and overwhelming.

Every passenger has a story to tell, and in a remarkable performance, Steward Henry Etches (Barnaby Hughes) with the freedom to move between classes, proves the thread that draws them all together.

The set is deceptively simple and allows the large cast of characters the freedom to sing, dance and make merry in the uplifting scenes of the first act. The merriment is made more poignant by the deafening thud that leads us into the interval.

On board there are power struggles between Captain and crew, White Star Lines Chairman and the ship’s designer which all contribute to the build-up of tension throughout the second act.

The heartbreak and recrimination at the inevitable loss of lives as the ship sinks is well-covered, but this also sits alongside greed and self-perceived worth as the lifeboats are floated.

Titanic The Musical is an epic production that pays due homage to one of the most recent tragedies of our time. Don’t miss it!

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