It's the most I can do to stop myself making 'sinking feeling' jokes at the start of this review, but seen as Titanic The Musical comes to Birmingham with a string of Tony's under it's belt, expectations were high for this relative unknown in the musical theatre landscape.
Over on Broadway, this show has been incredibly well received, yet in the UK - bar the odd clip on YouTube - we've not really seen much in the way of 'Titanic fever'. However, the production arrives in the city with a string of five-star reviews and a Brummie director, so we know we're setting sail (sorry!) for a musical of epic proportions.
We all know the story. In the final hours 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 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, Titanic The Musical is a stunning and stirring production focusing on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of her passengers who each boarded with stories and personal ambitions of their own. All innocently unaware of the fate awaiting them, the third class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the second class imagine they too can join the lifestyles of the rich and famous, whilst the millionaire Barons of the first class anticipate legacies lasting forever.
Of course this is a story which guides you through the ill fated voyage, but what this isn't is the 1997 film on stage. There's no 'Rose and Jack' and not a scrap of 'My Heart Will Go On'; Titanic The Musical tells the stories of the people on board and, as such, has an endearing edge to it.
If I'm totally honest, I took my seat thinking that someone had picked a theme from a flip chart and decided that 'Titanic' had enough about it to fill 3 hours. But the more I engrossed myself in the action on stage, the more I felt I should ignore my pre-conceptions and learn to be open minded!
With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Peter Stone, the pair have collectively won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, an Olivier Award and three Tony awards - and if I'm honest, I can see why. This production has one of the most rousing, powerful and 'sit back in amazement' scores, sung with such passion and volume that you can't help but me dumbstruck.
The show certainly isn't an easy watch. The first act is comparatively tame and full of love and expectation. Sitting down after the interval, we're greeted by a second act which starts with a sudden blackout, giving a foerboding atmosphere straight away. A stunning cast portraying a mixture of survivors and those who lost their lives, Titanic The Musical is a force to be reckoned with.
Every member of the cast deserves their own standing ovation - they take an amazingly difficult subject matter, which is still unbelievably raw, and deal with it with respect whilst still delivering an outstanding performance. However, for me, the stand out performance of the night came from Philip Rham as Captain Edward Smith who represented every man woman and child on board the ship. His passion and dedication tot he cause was admirable and, whilst its difficult to draw parallels, his interpretation of the man (as opposed to ticking the 'looks good on camera' box) was simply breathtaking.
I said it at the start of the review - this musical isn't the film on the stage. It's a realistic storytelling exercise with the odd moment of humour and a number of moments of poignancy, especially with the inclusion of the list of lives that were lost at sea. In that moment, there was an audible silence in the auditorium, save for some obvious sniffs from people who were clearly affected by the action on the stage. THAT is what makes this a special production.
Titanic The Musical is docked (sorry, again!) at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 9th June. For more information or to get your tickets, head to birminghamhippodrome.com.