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Titanic review at Charing Cross Theatre, London – ‘absolutely thrilling’

A scene from Titanic at Charing Cross Theatre. Photo: Scott Rylander A scene from Titanic at Charing Cross Theatre. Photo: Scott Rylander

There is, thankfully, no sign in this musical of that breathily earnest, Oscar-winning power ballad My Heart Will Go On from James Cameron’s 1997 film of Titanic. This Broadway musical, which also originally premiered in 1997, is scored instead by Maury Yeston and contains a tapestry of glorious chorally-inspired melodies. They create a brooding texture in which the eager anticipation for the ship’s maiden voyage is overcome by disaster as it hits an iceberg.

This is one of the most iconic stories of the last century: a terrible misadventure which cost some 1517 lives, thanks to the inadequate provision of lifeboats to make room for more first class accommodation, while the third class passengers below decks found themselves prevented from accessing the lifeboats at all.

Knowing the outcome does not diminish the enduring power of the story, especially as told with the fierce dramatic and musical drive of Peter Stone’s beautifully constructed book. It brilliantly establishes the interweaving lives caught up in the story – from crew to passengers of different classes – with Yeston’s sweeping, enveloping score.

Thom Southerland’s outstanding production is merely suggestive of the ship’s vast scale in David Woodhead’s deceptively simple set, but each and every character is superbly established by a fine ensemble cast. First seen at Southwark Playhouse in 2013, but substantially re-cast for its return, the superb voices include newcomers to the show David Bardsley, Niall Sheehy and Helena Blackman, with Shane McDaid, Victoria Serra and Judith Street among the welcome returnees.

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Absolutely thrilling production of the Titanic story gets a deserved London return