Titanic The Musical | A Review

This was the first production I've been able to see this year due to bad timing and the beast from the east, so I was happy to be back at the Lowry for another exciting evening! I must confess I am not a massive fan of Titanic the movie, which was just as well as Titanic the musical is not a take on the movie, but on the real life events that occured on the 14th April 1912 . 

Every character in the production was named directly after someone who was aboard the RMS Titanic in memory of their life. In the final hour of 14th April 1912, the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, collided with an iceberg and 'the unsinkable ship' slowly sank. It was one of the most tragic and infamous disasters of the 20th Century. 1517 men, women and children lost their lives.

Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's stunning musical focuses on their hopes and aspirations. Unaware of the fate that awaits them, the Third Class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the newly-enfranchised Second Class dream of achieving the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the millionaire Barons of the First Class dream of their mastery lasting forever.

It was so refreshing to see a tragic event be portrayed as just that, and not slapping a romance over the top to fluff it up and make it seem like a fairytale with a not so happy ending.  The excitement and wonder of the guests as they entered the Titanic was palpable and so was the fear when they realised the ship was going down. The musical aspect I admit at first I felt was a little 'high school musical' (not the film, but an actual musical in a high school) but as it went on it seemed to settle into a good groove and stepped up it's lyrical game. 

I loved the set design with a two layer deck and moving ladder to show the different level of the ship, and the fact that we were shown the story from all three levels of class. We were also shown exactly what happened that led to this disaster, from weaknesses in the design (the Titanic originally was designed to carry 64 lifeboats. To save from cluttering decks, the ship ended up only carrying 20) to the owner forcing the captain to go faster than was safe and the captain ignoring 7 iceberg warnings due to the pressure from the owner.. let's just say the owner had a lot of faults here, his last being taking a place in one of the twenty lifeboats available just to save himself. I learnt that most of 3rd class went down with the ship due to being locked down there and being unable to get to the top deck at all.

A lifeboat drill had been scheduled for the morning before the ship sank, but was cancelled, allegedly because the ship's captain, Edward Smith, wanted to deliver one last Sunday service before he went into full retirement. Smith had ordered his officers to put the "women and children in and lower away". However, Murdoch and Lightoller both interpreted the evacuation order differently; Murdoch interpreted it as women and children first, while Lightoller interpreted it as women and children only. Lightoller lowered lifeboats with empty seats if there were not any women and children waiting to board, while Murdoch only allowed a limited number of men to board if all the nearby women and children had already embarked. This had a significant effect on the survival rates of the men aboard Titanic, whose chances of survival came to depend on which side of the ship they tried to find lifeboat seats. Boat 7 was the first to be launched, at about 12:40 a.m., under the supervision of First Officer Murdoch, supported by Fifth Officer Lowe. It had a capacity of 65 persons but was lowered with only 28 aboard. That's right, some lifeboats left with empty seats.. more people could have been saved!

Later testimony at the U.S. Senate inquiry into the disaster stated the ship's officers believed the lifeboats were at risk of buckling and breaking apart if they were lowered while fully loaded. They intended that once the boats reached the water they would pick up passengers from doors in the ship's side or would pick up passengers in the water. The first did not happen at all and the second only happened in one instance. In fact, the lifeboats had keels reinforced with steel beams to prevent buckling while in the davits (although most of the crew was not aware of this.) Moreover, Harland & Wolff's Edward Wilding testified that the lifeboats had in fact been tested safely with the equivalent of a full load of passengers. However, the results had not been passed on to the crew of Titanic.

I really enjoyed the musical and I actually learnt a lot about what really happened that night rather than seeing two fictional people fall in love in 3 days. This is such an insightful production, and handled so respectfully, I readily recommend anyone to go and see it! 

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